Published on: March 18, 2022
Authors: Daniel W. Chasen
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure that would prohibit employers from discriminating against an individual based on hair texture or a hairstyle commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.
Under the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2021’’ (CROWN Act) (H.R. 2116; S. 888), it would be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an individual for hairstyles including those where “hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros.” The measure would be enforced “as if… incorporated in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”
“Discrimination against Black hair is discrimination against Black people,” said bill sponsor Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). “Implicit and explicit biases against natural hair are deeply ingrained in workplace norms and society at large and continue the legacy of dehumanizing Black people. This is a violation of our civil rights, and it happens every day across the country.”
Opponents claim the measure is unnecessary as federal law already prohibits disparate treatment based on race, color, or national origin, including grooming and appearance policies.
Currently, 14 states have passed the CROWN Act or legislation resembling the measure since 2019, including California, Washington, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
Outlook: The bill passed the House 235-189, but its path in the Senate will be a challenge. In the meantime, expect additional state and local governments to pass versions of the CROWN Act.