Hair has been the subject of an anti-discrimination bill
By: Ashley A. Smith, Esq., and Ty Hyderally, Esq.
Hair has inspired poems, songs, even a Broadway musical. More recently, it’s the subject of an anti-discrimination bill that has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and awaits the Senate’s vote. So, hair is actually quite important.
What is the CROWN Act?
The “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2022,” or “CROWN Act” for short, seeks to bar discrimination in housing, education, and employment based on “hair texture and hairstyle that are commonly associated with race or national origin.” H.R. 2116, Sec. 2.
The CROWN Act begins with an acknowledgment that throughout United States history, racial and national origin discrimination has occurred and still occurs because of longstanding biases and stereotypes associated with hair texture and style. Such discrimination is reflected in school and workplace policies and practices that bar natural or protective hairstyles commonly worn by people of African descent, including the U.S. Army’s grooming standards before 2021.
How the CROWN Act Relates to Employment?
Section 6 of the CROWN Act specifically addresses employment. In sum, the Act states that it is an unlawful employment practice to fail or refuse to hire someone, discharge someone from employment, or otherwise discriminate against someone based on their hair texture or hairstyle, if their hair texture or hair style is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin. Specifically included are “hairstyle[s] in which hair is tightly coiled or curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros.”
In the workplace, this is no small matter. According to a 2019 study conducted by the JOY Collective, Black women are 80% more likely to feel pressure to change their hairstyles in order to fit in at the office – and are more likely to be sent home from the workplace due to their hair.
On a state level, New Jersey, New York, and California each implemented their own versions of the CROWN Act in 2019. Since then, 9 other states have followed suit. Federal passage of the CROWN Act would provide the same protections to people in all 50 states. The CROWN Act has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. It is difficult to predict how the Act will fare, but we are hopeful that it’s…hair to stay.
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