Effective January 1, 2020, employers will be prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees based on hairstyles associated with race. The recently enacted Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, has broadened the definition of “race” under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to include both hair texture and protective hairstyles that are closely associated with race. Under the Act, “protective hairstyles” include, but are not limited to, braids, locks, and twists.
The Act not only bans discrimination directly related to protective hairstyles, but also bans dress codes and employee grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks. The Act specifically states that such policies would have a disparate impact on Black individuals because such policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group.
California may be one of the first states to enact protective measures against hairstyle discrimination, but we will likely see similar laws arise around the country as more states begin to include hairstyles in their definition of race. Now is a good time to review your dress codes, grooming policies, and general hiring and employment practices to ensure they are complaint with the CROWN Act. It is also a good time to train supervisors and managers not to discriminate against applicants or employees based on their natural hairstyles.
If you have questions or need assistance, please contact one of our HR Consultants at 888-622-6460.