Crown Act legislation is the ‘wave’ of the future | Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP
It’s been three years since California followed New York’s lead and became the first state to ban discrimination based on ethnic hair textures and styles. But now a total of 18 states have passed such legislation, including three states in the South.
The most recent states to join the wave are Louisiana, Massachusetts and Tennessee.
The legislation is commonly known as the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act – or the “Crown’s Law”. Although the laws vary from state to state, the basics are the same. Generally, employers are prohibited from discriminating based on an individual’s hair texture and hairstyles, such as braids, cornrows, Afros, dreadlocks, and twists.
The Crown Act
In 2019, a study conducted by Dove concluded that black women were disproportionately affected by workplace hairstyle policies and practices. In a survey of 1,000 black women and 1,000 non-black women employed full-time, Dove reported that black women were 50% more likely than their non-black counterparts to be fired from the workplace because of their hair. . Eighty percent of black respondents said they felt they needed to change their hair from its natural state to fit in at the office.
In July 2019, California became the first state to ban discrimination at work and in public schools based on a person’s hair texture and “protective hairstyles,” such as braids, cornrows, afros, dreadlocks and twists. Although California was the first State to ban natural hair discrimination, New York City was the first jurisdiction to do so, in February 2019. Over the next three and a half years, “Crown Act legislation” was enacted in a total of 18 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland , Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York State, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington State. On its attorney general’s website, the District of Columbia says it has banned “hair discrimination” since 1977.
Crown Act legislation is pending in a number of other states, including Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Rhode Island, South Dakota and l ‘Utah.
In addition to state legislation, many municipalities across the country have Crown Act ordinances.
Louisiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee
As noted earlier, the newest states in the fold are Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Tennessee. Here is a summary of the provisions of the Crown Act:
louisiana The Crown Act came into force on August 1. It amends the definition of intentional discrimination in employment to include any discriminatory practice with respect to “compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment” of an individual because of “natural, protective or cultural hairstyle “. .” “Natural, protective, or cultural hairstyle” is defined as including “Afros, dreadlocks, twists, locs, braids, cornrow braids, Bantu knots, curls, and hair styled to protect hair texture or for cultural significance.
The Massachusetts The Crown Act came into force on July 26. It adds to the definition of “race” in various laws the term “protective hairstyle” and includes “hair texture, hair type and hairstyles… [and] natural and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots, hair covers and other formations. Among other laws, the change applies to the definition of “race” in Massachusetts’ Fair Employment Practices Act, which prohibits denial of employment and educational opportunities in workplaces, schools and school-related organizations on the basis of race.
from Tennessee version of the Crown Act, which came into force on July 1, prohibits employers from adopting policies prohibiting employees from wearing braids, locs, twists or other styles that are part of their ethnic culture or based on the physical characteristics of their ethnic groups.
Federation of Legislation
Arguably, bans on ethnic hair texture or styles could be a form of racial or national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, based on disparate treatment or a theory of disparate impact, depending on the circumstances.
Nonetheless, during the 2019-2020 session of the U.S. Congress, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) introduced a bill to create federal “Crown Law.” The bill didn’t pass, but in 2021, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) introduced similar legislation, which passed the House of Representatives last March by a vote of 235 against. 189. Fourteen Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the bill.
The House bill would expressly prohibit discrimination in employment against an individual “on the basis of the texture or hairstyle of their hair, if that texture or hairstyle is commonly associated with a race. or to a particular national origin (including a hairstyle in which the hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, bantu knots and afros).
The fate of the Crown Bill in the Senate is uncertain. The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the deciding vote. However, Democratic senses Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) have been known to vote with Republicans on certain laws. In addition, the composition of the two houses of Congress could change depending on the results of the November elections. On the other hand, Crown Act legislation does not appear to be a strictly party-line issue, as the vote in the House demonstrated.
Recommendations for employers
Employers in jurisdictions with Crown Act legislation should review their appearance and grooming policies and practices to ensure they comply with applicable law. Beyond this, all employers should consider operating as if “Crown law” legislation applies to them, unless there is a genuine safety or other issue. authentic reason to ban certain hairstyles. This will allow employers to be prepared in the likely event that legislation in their states – or federal legislation – is enacted, or if a complainant challenges an ethnic hairstyle restriction on Title VII grounds. In addition to ensuring compliance with the law (or anticipated law), less restrictive appearance and preparation policies can also help employers create more inclusive workplaces. Finally, employers should also consider educating supervisors, managers, and those responsible for making hiring decisions on their appearance and presentation policies and the rights of individuals.