New Hairstyle Protections in California and New York Mean Employers Should Review Dress and Grooming Policies

Duane Morris

August 19, 2019

Employers should review their dress and grooming policies for any requirements that may have a disparate impact on employees who belong to protected classes.

Following New York City, California and New York have become the first two states to protect employees from discrimination based on natural hair and hairstyles traditionally associated with a particular race. New Jersey has proposed a similar amendment to its state law against race discrimination. All of these measures are concerned with the possible stigma associated with non-European hairstyles, including cornrows, Afros, locks, twists and braids. These new laws ensure that discrimination on this basis is unlawful.

California’s CROWN Act

The California measure, known as the CROWN Act, is an acronym for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair.” The CROWN Act expands the definition of race in California’s anti-discrimination law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, to include “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The law defines “protective hairstyles” to include “braids, locks, and twists.”

This measure passed unanimously in both the California Assembly and Senate. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 188 on July 3, 2019, and it goes into effect on January 1, 2020. This new law applies to public employers and private employers with five or more employees and also applies to public schools, but excludes religious and nonprofit organizations…. (continue reading)