UPDATED JUNE 9, 2020

In March 2020, Virginia, Colorado, and Maryland became the most recent states to enact legislation banning hair discrimination. These laws come on the heels of a nationwide movement around the “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act,” or the CROWN Act, which was created to ensure protection against discrimination based on hairstyles. At the federal level Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) introduced legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of hair texture or hairstyle under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

While the following state laws vary slightly, they aim to the combat discriminatory racial impact of grooming policies by prohibiting the limitations placed on hairstyles associated with race. This article provides a brief overview of the states that have enacted legislation banning hair discrimination.

California

In July 2019, California amended its Fair Employment and Housing Act and its Education Code to clarify that race includes “hair texture and protective hairstyles,” including “braids, locks and twists.” The law became effective January 1, 2020.

Colorado

In March 2020, Colorado Governor Polis signed the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2020,” also known as the CROWN Act of 2020 prohibiting discrimination based on hair texture, hair type, protective hairstyles and headwraps in employment, education, housing and public accommodations.

Maryland

In March 2020, the legislature the approved House Bill 1444 moving it to final approval prior to reaching Gov. Larry Hogan for signature. Maryland employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on “certain traits associated with race, including hair texture and certain hairstyles.” The law is set to take effect October 1, 2020.

New Jersey

In December 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the “Create Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act” (CROWN Act) to address discrimination based on traits historically associated with race, particularly focused on hair texture and style. The CROWN Act effectively codified prior guidance from the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) clarifying how the DCR applies the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) to discrimination based on hairstyles. For more information about the NJ CROWN Act, please visit our blog post.

New York

In July 2019, New York amended its existing civil rights and education laws to clarify that the existing definition of race includes “traits historically associated with race,” including “hair texture and protective hairstyles” such as “braids locks and twists.” 

Virginia

In March 2020, Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, signed HB 1514 into law which bans discrimination based on “protective hairstyles such as braids, locks and twists”. The law expands the Virginia Human Rights Act’s definition of racial discrimination to include traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles. Virginia’s law will become effective on July 1, 2020.

Employer Considerations

While these four states have enacted hair discrimination laws over the past year, similar legislation is currently pending in over 20 states and employers should pay close attention to their state legislatures as many begin to introduce similar bans. Given this trend, employers across the country should consider revisiting and updating grooming standards, training practices and policies.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to constitute legal or tax advice. Information provided in this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments and may vary by jurisdiction. The content on this blog is for general informational purposes only and does not apply to any particular facts or circumstances. The use of this blog does not in any way establish an attorney-client relationship, nor should any such relationship be implied, and the contents do not constitute legal or tax advice. If you require legal or tax advice, please consult with a licensed attorney or tax professional in your jurisdiction. The contributing authors expressly disclaim all liability to any persons or entities with respect to any action or inaction based on the contents of this blog.

Lizet Ramirez – Lizet is a Client Compliance Manager for Sequoia One, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Lizet enjoys live music, travel, hiking and spa days.