A piece of legislation, sponsored by two members of the Hudson County delegation, have been signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy. The bill (S-3945) is known as the “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act.” Among the legislation’s prime sponsors are Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-Dist. 31) and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Dist. 31) who represent Jersey City and Bayonne.
The intent of the bill, as described in its explanation, is to “prohibit racial discrimination on the basis of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles.” The basis for the new legislation goes back one year when an African-American, high school wrestler, Andrew Johnson, was forced to cut his dreadlocks before competing in a match.
The referee who ordered Johnson to cut his hair, Alan Maloney, told the wrestler his match would be forfeited if he did not comply. Ultimately, Johnson cut his dreadlocks and competed. The incident drew national attention.
Upon signing the bill, Governor Murphy stated, “Race-based discrimination will not be tolerated in the state of New Jersey. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable or be discriminated against because of their natural hair.” Assemblywoman McKnight added, “New Jersey becomes the third state to prohibit hair discrimination.”
United States Senator Cory Booker also weighed in, stating, “Discrimination against black hair is discrimination against black people. No one should be denied a job, an education or face discrimination because of their hairstyle.”
The new law takes effect immediately.