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France: Push back against hairstyle discrimination

France: Push back against hairstyle discrimination

The draft specifically relates to discrimination in the application process or in the workplace “on account of hairstyle, colour, length or hair texture”. Discrimination in such cases should be punished in the future with fines or even imprisonment.

The idea of ​​the law is based on studies from Great Britain and the USA in particular – but in France it is not allowed on the basis of racial criteria. “Two-thirds of African-American women changed their hairstyles when they had a job interview,” the initiators cited the results of a survey conducted in the USA.

Multi-party support

Other British and American studies have shown that women who straighten their hair using chemicals have an increased risk of developing serious health problems. “It is also a public health issue,” French daily Liberation quoted MP Olivier Cerva of the small Liberties Group party, Independents, Extraterrestrials and Territories (LIOT), founded in 2018, as saying on Wednesday. The proposed law was presented.

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According to the initiators, the law aims to fill loopholes in the labor law

The text is based on a law that has been passed in nearly half (23) states in the United States of America. In France, about 60 deputies from several parties signed the initiative. The initiators hope to obtain widespread support in the National Assembly, which includes 577 seats in the French National Assembly.

Also criticism of the “victim logic”

But there is also criticism of the move, because discrimination in the workplace is already prohibited under French labor law, even when it comes to the issue of physical appearance. “There is no loophole in the law,” said labor law expert Eric Rocheblav. MP Fabian De Filippo from the right-wing Conservative Republicans party warned against importing “Anglo-Saxon law and its sacrificial logic” to France.

On the other hand, supporters of the law explain that the matter is not about expansion, but rather about clarifying the cases of discrimination previously mentioned in the law. “It is useful to name some phenomena, even if they are not new,” said Cerva, who is from the French overseas department of Guadeloupe.

The look was dismissed as “unprofessional” and “unruly”.

Reuters news agency quoted him as saying on Wednesday that the planned law would enable those affected to be recognized as victims and increase their chances in judicial proceedings. Legislation must clearly state that discrimination because of a particular hairstyle is illegal. Cerva also gave examples, such as people with dreadlocks facing stupid comments at work (“Look, here comes Bob Marley”).

On Wednesday, France 24 allowed a young woman to speak out, as her employer in a hotel in the south of France rejected her hairstyle and therefore her appearance, describing her as “unprofessional” and “unruly” and indirectly threatening her with dismissal if she did not change her appearance. the design. It's not just about the afro and dreadlocks look, but in general about color, hair length and styling.

Notable “case” Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States, admitted in an interview in November that she felt compelled to straighten her hair during her husband Barack Obama's term as President of the United States (2009 to 2017).

Michelle Obama November 2023

Reuters/Nick Bothma

Michelle Obama felt forced to change her style as First Lady of the United States

In France, the case of an Air France flight attendant sparked an uproar after he was allowed to wear African braids after a ten-year trial. The appeals court ruled that the airline's ban amounted to gender discrimination because it allowed flight attendants to have such braids.

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