The CROWN Act: How to Comply with Hair Discrimination Laws in the Workplace

Key Points about hair discrimination laws and workplace compliance:

  • Black employees with natural hairstyles often face discrimination in professional settings.
  • State and local laws like the CROWN Act protect against race-based hair discrimination. 
  • To stay compliant and create a more inclusive workplace, train managers and review your dress and appearance policies.

Racial discrimination can take many forms. In the workplace, hair discrimination is one of them, and it presents real barriers to Black employees. Unfortunately, no Federal law protects employees from discrimination based on hairstyle or texture. As a result, several states have passed hair discrimination laws like the CROWN Act. Understanding these laws can help you stay compliant and create a more inclusive workplace.

What is hair discrimination in the workplace?

In many work environments, straightened hair is falsely considered more professional than natural hair. This bias has social and economic impacts on the Black community. In fact, employers have rescinded job offers, ignored promotions, or fired Black employees because of their natural hairstyles.

Black women are affected by these biases the most. Black women with natural hairstyles are less likely to get job interviews than white women or Black women with straightened hair. They’re also 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair.

While the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans racial discrimination, it does not specifically prohibit hair discrimination. However, hair discrimination is often a form of racial discrimination. Because of this, hair discrimination laws are needed to fully protect Black employees in the workplace.

Black woman working on laptop talking on cell phone

What is the CROWN Act?

The CROWN Act stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. It aims to “ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles.” The Act calls for “statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools.” 

Some states have passed different hair discrimination laws or amended an existing law instead of enacting the CROWN Act. Despite these differences, all hair discrimination laws aim to protect race-based hairstyles.

Which states have passed hair discrimination laws or the CROWN Act?

As of now, the following states have passed the CROWN Act or a similar piece of legislation:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • Washington

Several states have introduced hair discrimination laws but have not passed them yet. Check with your state for the most up-to-date information.

Even if your state isn’t on this list, check your local legislation. Some cities have enacted versions of the CROWN Act even if their state hasn’t. If you operate in one of these jurisdictions, you may need to comply with additional requirements.

Is there a Federal hair discrimination law?

There is currently no Federal law that prohibits hair discrimination. However, the CROWN Act has been introduced to the House of Representatives and the Senate. This Act, or a similar piece of legislation, may eventually become national law.

How should employers comply with hair discrimination laws?

To stay compliant with hair discrimination laws, revisit your policies and enforcement procedures. Your grooming, dress, and appearance standards should be neutral. Make sure they don’t prohibit natural or protective hairstyles. 

Even if your policy is neutral, biases surrounding natural hair can lead to unequal enforcement. Training your managers can help them enforce your policies without being discriminatory.  

An HRIS like SentricHR makes it easy to adjust your company policies and enroll employees in new training programs. To stay on top of compliance, you can even track which employees have viewed an updated policy or completed a required training.

Be sure to check your state and local legislation for any additional requirements. If you’re a multistate employer, check hair discrimination laws in each location. You may want to enact a sweeping policy to make compliance easier.

Improving Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

The CROWN Act and similar hair discrimination laws are gaining traction for a reason. You may not need to comply with one right now, but consider reviewing your policies and training your employees anyway. You’ll be one step ahead of potential changes while making your workplace more inclusive.


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