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.
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