On July 26, 2022, Massachusetts (MA) signed into law the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (“CROWN”) Act, which bans discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in the workplace, schools, and public accommodations (e.g., restaurants, stores, and hotels). The CROWN Act takes effect on October 24, 2022.

Massachusetts legislators unanimously passed the CROWN Act, which, in part, was in response to a high-profile case where Boston high school students were punished by their school for wearing braided hair extensions. Generally, the law is intended to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyles that are historically associated with an individual’s race. Specifically, the MA law protects “natural or protective hairstyle,” which means hair texture, hair type, and hairstyles that include (but are not limited to) braids, locks, twists, and Bantu knots. Massachusetts joins 17 other states that have passed similar laws that prohibit discrimination based on hairstyles.

Employers with MA employees should review any applicable dress code or appearance policies to ensure natural and protective hairstyles are not unlawfully prohibited in advance of the October effective date. In addition, employers may want to align any hiring or screening practices and train managers accordingly.

Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, medical or tax advice. It provides general information and is not intended to encompass all compliance and legal obligations that may be applicable. This information and any questions as to your specific circumstances should be reviewed with your respective legal counsel and/or tax advisor as we do not provide legal or tax advice. Please note that this information may be subject to change based on legislative changes. © 2022 Sequoia Benefits & Insurance Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Emerald Law — Emerald is a Senior Compliance Consultant for Sequoia, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Emerald enjoys stand-up comedy, live music, and writing non-fiction.