On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s texture or style of hair with a vote of 235-189.
It’s called the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2022” or the “CROWN Act of 2022,” and you can read it here.
The legislation transcends the workplace. But since this is an employment law blog, I will focus on that part in this post.
The CROWN Act would make it unlawful for employers to discriminate based on an individual’s hair texture or hairstyle, if that hair texture or that hairstyle is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin (including a hairstyle in which hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros).
This isn’t the first time that Congress has advanced this type of legislation. In 2020, the CROWN Act passed the House on a voice vote. Since then, the number of states with hairstyle/texture discrimination laws has increased from seven to fourteen. Many cities have banned it too.
Fourteen is the same number of House Republicans who voted in favor of the CROWN Act of 2022. Does that mean that the rest of them condone discrimination based on hairstyle or texture? I doubt it. Representative Jim Jordan (OH) panned the timing of the legislation amidst rising gas prices and other economic “chaos.” Others have commented that existing anti-discrimination law already covers discrimination based on hairstyle and texture.
Still, studies have shown that this type of discrimination is prevalent. According to a Dove study, 47% of black mothers report having experienced discrimination related to their hair. Eighty-six percent of teens who experience discrimination state that they have experienced discrimination based on their hair by age 12.
Even without a federal law, employers can do their part to prevent discrimination related to hairstyle and texture by highlighting these forms of discrimination in their workplace rules and training — especially with managers. Also, check your grooming/workplace attire policy — if you have one — and make sure that it does not restrict or outright ban natural hair or hairstyles associated with people of any particular race or national origin. Additionally, policies that require tying back hair should have some nexus to workplace safety or hygiene.
Also, don’t forget about the potential need to provide religious accommodations based on hairstyle or texture.