As of July 1, 2020, Virginia has become the youngest state in the world to discriminate against hair. The Virginia CROWN Act, which was passed earlier this year, prevents discrimination based on hair, particularly based on “race identifiers” such as hair type and structure. CROWN stands for "Create a respectful and open world for natural hair" and specifically protects people from discrimination when wearing their natural hair, including protective styles such as braids and locomotives. Similar laws have been passed in several states, including California and New York, with others likely to do the same. In light of this new legislation, we have answered a few questions that you, as an employer or employee, may need to know.
Free employee handbook
Outline your guidelines as an employer.
How does the CROWN Act differ from existing law?
Natural hair discrimination laws have been divided in recent years. In 2016, a federal court ruled that employers could legally terminate or deny individuals the ability to wear their hair in dreadlocks. However, U.S. military branches lifted a ban on protective and natural hairstyles in 2017, and since then, several other states have passed their own laws. Given the recent CROWN Act in Virginia and other states that are adopting similar legislation, we can expect the ban on hair discrimination to become more widespread in the future.
Which states have laws that prohibit discrimination against hair?
So far, the CROWN Act has entered into force in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, Washington and California. It is filed or pre-filed in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia and Nebraska. The CROWN law was also introduced at the federal level. However, you should speak to a lawyer for now if you have questions about the state and local laws that you are in.
What does a hair discrimination ban mean?
Laws such as the CROWN Act prevent people from being subjected to punitive measures or other discrimination if they choose to wear their natural hair or have their hair in a protective style. This means, for example, that a child cannot be sent home from school or violates the dress code if he has his hair in braids. It also prevents a person from being denied a job or being fired.
What should I do as an employer?
If you are an employer in a state that prohibits discrimination against natural hair, you can update your employee handbook or anti-discrimination policy to reflect this change and follow the appropriate protocol for employees who feel discriminated against. Your application can also be changed if necessary. If you have any questions about how to ensure your company complies with anti-discrimination laws, or if you feel you have been discriminated against because of wearing your natural hair, contact a lawyer.