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"Changing Currents in Employment Law" is the D.C. Bar's annual three-hour event featuring legal updates and practice tips from the area's top employment attorneys — all for CLE credit. TELG's Scott Oswald serves as faculty chair and will moderate the event on October 26, 2021. Here he previews the panel on new hair discrimination statutes with panelist Natalie Koss of Potomac Legal Group PLLC.
This video interview by TELG managing principal R. Scott Oswald was published by The Employment Law Group, P.C. on August 12, 2021.
» “Changing Currents in Employment Law” will take place on October 26, 2021. Click here for more details and registration options.
(Transcribed and edited lightly by The Employment Law Group)
R. Scott Oswald: Welcome, everyone, to our preview of this year’s “Changing Currents in Employment Law,” the D.C. Bar’s fall employment law CLE. I’m Scott Oswald. I am faculty chair of “Changing Currents in Employment Law,” [and I’m here] with one of our speakers, Natalie Koss. She is the managing partner at Potomac Legal Group here in D.C.
Natalie Koss: Hi, how are you, Scott?
Oswald: I’m good. Hey, let’s talk about your panel. You’re speaking on “Natural Law: The Workplace Impact of New Hair Discrimination Statutes.” Boy, this really is a cutting edge topic. Tell us just a little bit about your panel and your fellow panelist.
Koss: I am joined by Sherron McClain of the FBI, who will be providing the employer’s perspective on our panel about hair discrimination, and you’re right, Scott. It is a cutting edge topic. It’s so cutting edge that, as we speak, state legislatures are passing CROWN Act laws to prohibit some very insidious and pervasive hair discrimination that largely impacts African American women and their hairstyles [and] hair texture. The CROWN Act stands for “creating a respectful and open workplace for natural hair.”
Oswald: So, when a potential client comes to you, Natalie, and says, “look, I’m having this problem
at work, I’m being asked about my hairstyle” or something similar, what kind of advice are you giving to that potential client?
Koss: Well, as an employee-side attorney, I’m regularly asked by potential clients about discrimination within the workplace, and the first place I always ask them to go — whether it’s hair discrimination or some other discrimination — is “what does it say in the employment handbook?” What does the employee handbook say about how employees should manage their hair? What are considered professional grooming standards, appropriate standards, as defined by the employer in the workplace?
Then we ask the employee, “How is the policy being enforced?” Is the policy being disproportionately enforced against African Americans, African American women, which is traditionally the case?
Oswald: And so, it’s really important for employees to dust off that manual, actually open it, and see what these policies say. It kind of guides what happens next.
Koss: Absolutely. And we’re also going to be discussing the jurisprudence as relates to hair discrimination cases nationally as well as within the District, Maryland, and Virginia.