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Hot Topic: Hair Discrimination? Say What?

Periodically, this blog will discuss various hot topics surrounding Labor Law issues. This may include such issues as: discrimination, sexual harassment, paid family leave and drug testing among others. Let’s look at an issue that has been in the news most recently, hair discrimination.

The most recent headlines involving hair discrimination have happened in the last few years. In August of 2018, a Louisiana sixth grader was kicked off school grounds because her braided hair violated school policy. In December 2018, a high school student was told he had to choose between cutting his dreadlocks or forfeit his wrestling match. And in December 2019, a high school senior was suspended for wearing dreadlocks and was told he would not be able to walk at graduation if he did not change his hair. Going a few more years back, a leading federal circuit court case concerning hair discrimination involved a claim against an insurance company, who withdrew a potential employees job offer because she refused to cut her natural dreadlocks. These events and other have led states to create legislation such as the CROWN Act.

What is the CROWN Act? CROWN is an acronym for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The Crown Act is a law which ensures protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Codes.

What states have enacted this law? California was the first state to expand the definition of race in the Fair Employment and Housing Act, ensuring protection in workplaces and public and charter schools, effective January 1, 2020. Other states are considering the CROWN Act and have either pre-filed, filed or formally stated an intent to introduce their own anti-hair discrimination laws including New York, New Jersey and most recently Virginia on March 3, 2020. Twenty-five additional states and some cities have pending legislation: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

How does the CROWN Act affect my business? The CROWN Act or similar type laws could affect your business in various ways. Some include:

· Dress codes and grooming guidelines may need to be reviewed and updated

· Companies may be required to provide personal protective equipment concerning an employee’s hair

· During job interviews, hair style cannot be a consideration to hire or not to hire

· Managers and supervisors will need to be trained to not discriminate based on natural hair styles

· Employers may need to consult legal advice to clarify any hair discrimination policies and procedures

If an employee feels as if they have been discriminated against because of hair style, they can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (

The information contained in this blog cannot be considered as legal advice. It is provided for general information only. Contact the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) or your state’s Labor Department or agency for legal advice.