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Vermont Expands Protections for Race

Beginning July 1, 2024, Vermont has an updated definition of race in its discrimination statute, which applies to employers of all sizes. Race will include traits associated with or perceived to be associated with race. This specifically includes hair type and texture, hairstyles, and protective hairstyles including (but not limited to) braids, cornrows, locs, afros, wigs, headwraps, and other head coverings.

This definition creates a very broad set of protections for employees and has the potential for wide application, such as protecting dialect and styles of dress.

Action Items

  • If you have dress or grooming policies that regulate hairstyles or head coverings, consider whether they’re absolutely necessary for your organization. If you believe that they are, consider consulting with an attorney to ensure they don’t run afoul of this law.
  • Train managers and those involved in the hiring process to not make judgments about professionalism or cultural fit based on how someone wears their hair and to ensure their own unconscious bias doesn’t negatively affect candidates or employees.
  • Update your equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy to make it clear that race includes traits associated with or perceived to be associated with race.
HR Services Team
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