NewsLocal News


Supporters of anti-hair discrimination bill confused by veto

Posted at 10:57 PM, Aug 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-16 23:57:49-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Saturday Gov. Pete Ricketts announced that he would be vetoing LB 1060, a bill that would ban racial discrimination in the workplace based on protective and natural hairstyles.

Sunday, those who supported the bill say they are both disappointed and confused by the decision.

“When you work on something this long and go through this many iterations and collaborate with as many people as I collaborated with, I was disappointed that he vetoed the bill," said Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh says she presented her priority bill, LB 1060, to the Nebraska Legislature, with the hopes that those in the black community would not longer fear discrimination for wearing traditional and protective hairstyles.

“My main goal is to elevate women of color in the workplace in Nebraska and make sure that they have one less obstacle to financial security and success in our state.”

It seemed that her fellow senators agreed when the bill passed its final reading on Tuesday. But Saturday, Ricketts announced he would be vetoing the bill.

In a statement issued Sunday, Ricketts said he agrees that discrimination should not be in the workplace, but did not agree with the text of the bill, saying it should focus more on hair texture.

“As this proposed legislation is currently written, it specifies hairstyles, which are mutable or changeable and not limited to a particular race; this could invite unintended, unexplored consequences."

Ashlei Spivey, the founder of I Be Black Girl, says its not just her hair texture that has affected her in the workforce, but the traditionally black styles she wears as well.

“I think that it's one thing to have conversation, but its another to have action," Spivey said. "So we have to stop talking about being anti-racist. We have to stop talking about discriminating and truly put in place protections, policies that really allow for people to be successful and thrive in our community.”

Spivey said she was devastated by the governor's veto and confused by his reasoning.

“Because of the lack of engagement since this bill has been on file since March, that it feels kind of grasping for straws,” Spivey said. “I just think it was a missed opportunity and shows a lack of commitment here in Nebraska to providing more inclusive workspaces.”

Though it is too late to override the veto, as the Legislature is no longer in session, Cavanaugh says she will continue working to see the bill become a law.

“I’m still not quite sure what to make of it, but [Ricketts] stated in his letter that he’s committed to working with the legislature so I look forward to him signing the bill when I bring it next year.”

Read Gov. Ricketts full statement:

I am in full support of prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, public accommodations and other areas. I also understand that hairstyles worn by some minority communities, including braids, afros, curls and twists are representative of culture and cultural identity. However, I have vetoed this bill because it should more clearly speak to the immutable or unchangeable characteristics of hair texture that are often associated with race and racial identity rather than designating approval or lack thereof for a specific list of hairstyles.

As this proposed legislation is currently written, it specifies hairstyles, which are mutable or changeable and not limited to a particular race; this could invite unintended, unexplored consequences. Some employers must impose certain restrictions on hair length or require that hair be tied back or covered to ensure the health and safety of their employees and the public. For example, employees who work in food service or around heavy equipment may be required to follow specific guidelines that have been established for their personal safety.

Because of these considerations, I feel more time is needed to gain a better understanding of these nuanced situations prior to moving forward with legislation on this very important issue. There is no disputing the need to provide appropriate protections for African Americans and other minorities with respect to preventing discrimination when it comes to hairstyle options.

While I am vetoing LB 1060 at this time, I am committed to working with the legislature to develop a substantive bill in the upcoming session. I look forward to employing a process that will allow for these protections to be instituted in a way that is adequately researched, judiciously considered and expeditious.