Local Politics

Wake commissioners ban discrimination against natural hairstyles for county workers

Posted March 22, 2021 5:36 a.m. EDT
Updated March 22, 2021 3:10 p.m. EDT

— The Wake County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to join a growing number of Triangle communities banning discrimination based on hairstyles.

The resolution protecting the way people wear their hair applies only to county employees.

Several cities have already passed similar protections, including Carrboro and Durham.

"While some people think of hair as trivial," Wake County Commissioner Shinica Thomas said, "it is not a trivial thing."

Commissioner Sig Hutchison agreed, saying "Hairstyle is so much of our identity."

Thomas said a training video will educate employees about the new policy.

Similar legislation, called the CROWN Act for Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair, has been introduced in the state House and is is already law in California, New York and New Jersey. CNN reports the legislation has been introduced in more than 20 states.

"I don't want other women in the workplace, honestly other people of African-American descent in the workplace, not just women, to feel the discrimination I felt coming as a young person coming into the workforce," Thomas said. "I have two sons, and they both wear their hair naturally – they don't have very short cuts – so it's for them as well."

A Duke University study showed Black women with natural hairstyles, including curly afros, twists or braids, are less likely to get job interviews than white women or Black women with straightened hair.

Greenway, open space projects funded

In other business, the commissioners voted to use $4.4 million of bond money approved in 2018 to fund two greenway and open space projects.

About $2.8 million will go toward connecting Crabtree Creek Greenway to Umstead State Park. The 12-foot wide asphalt path will be approximately 1.8 miles long and cost a total of $8.6 million. Construction is expected to begin this summer and be completed by August 2023.

Commissioners also agreed to purchase a 150-acre farm owned by Mack and Giles Perry for about $2 million – $1.6 million will come from the bond money. The farm on Cedar Fork Creek in the northeast part of the county is a mix of woods and agricultural farmland located on a tributary to the Little River. Officials said the open space would protect water quality in a future water supply watershed, and the farm also is upstream of the Mitchell Mill State Natural Area, a 105-acre tract that protects granitic flatrock outcrops and a fragile and rare ecosystem.

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