“Common Law”: the legal battle over black hair and protective hairstyles

Black women facing discrimination for wearing their hair naturally have failed in the courts, underscoring the need for other solutions, says a University of Virginia Law School graduate in the latest episode of ” Common Law”.

The ninth episode of the UVA Law Podcast features Doriane Nguenang ’21, now a partner at Baker McKenzie, and hosts Dean Risa Goluboff and Professor Cathy Hwang.

Nguenang wrote about employment disputes over hair in his student note for the Virginia Law Review, “Black women’s hair and natural hairstyles at work.” As a law student, Nguenang also served as a research assistant for Hwang’s Corporate Law Scholarship.

Nguenang, from Cameroon, said she was surprised by the discrimination some women face in such cases, as she is from a country where black hair and natural hairstyles are the norm.

She and the hosts talk about how some litigation happened; the possibility of an expanded definition of Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; and the CROWN Act – a bill that would protect employees from discrimination based on race. They also talk about the benefits of protective hairstyles that keep ends hidden, like twists, braids, buns, and wigs.

This season, called “Co-Counsel”, features a rotating set of co-hosts: Hwang, Danielle Citron, John Harrison, and Greg Mitchell. Everyone joins Goluboff to discuss cutting-edge research on legal topics of their choosing.

“Common Law” is available at Apple podcast, embroiderer, Youtube, Spotify and other popular podcast sources. The show is produced by Emily Richardson-Lorente.

Previous seasons have focused on “The Future of Law“, “When Law Changed the World”, and “Law and Fairness”.

You can follow the show on the website CommonLawPodcast.com or Twitter at @CommonLawUVA.

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