UPDATED August 2021 to include Oregon’s Equality Act.
UPDATED April 2021 to include Connecticut’s Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act.
UPDATED JUNE 9, 2020
These is 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.
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.
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.
On March 10, 2021, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed into law House Bill No. 6515, An Act Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (“CROWN Act“), which amends Connecticut’s anti-discrimination law to define race as “inclusive of ethnic traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The new law further defines “protective hairstyles” as including, but not limited to, “wigs, headwraps and hairstyles such as individual braids, cornrows, locs, twists, Bantu knots, afros and afro puffs.”
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.
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.
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.”
On June 11, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law House Bill 2935, also known as the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), explicitly prohibiting employers and public schools from discriminating against individuals based on physical characteristics historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles. The act will take effect on January 1, 2022. The act amends the Oregon Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment, by including a new definition of “race” that “includes physical characteristics that are historically associated with race, including but not limited to natural hair, hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles.” It further defines “protective hairstyles” to include any “hairstyle, hair color or manner of wearing hair that includes, but is not limited to, braids, regardless of whether the braids are created with extensions or styled with adornments, locs and twists.”
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.
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.
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