September 13, 2022

Over the last few years, you’ve likely heard of the CROWN Act. The appropriate acronym, CROWN, stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” The law addresses hair grooming policies in workplaces and schools to prevent hair discrimination.

Black people have faced discrimination against natural hairstyles and textures for generations. In fact, the CROWN Act reports that: 

  • Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair.
  • 80% of Black women feel the need to alter their hair from its natural state to fit in an office environment.

As many states and cities adopt the CROWN Act, employers must stay updated and ensure their grooming and dress policies are compliant. This blog post breaks down this law, what it covers, and how to create a workplace accepting of natural hair. 

What is the CROWN Act?

The CROWN Act was initiated by Dove, the National Urban League, and several other organizations and originally went into effect on January 1, 2020, in California. It prohibits discrimination against employees based on hair textures and styles associated with race and national origin. Many individual state and city CROWN Laws specifically mention and protect: 

  • Afros
  • Bantu knots
  • Locs
  • Braids
  • Cornrows

Simply put, the law prevents workplace policies that prohibit these hairstyles and others historically associated with race.

To commemorate the inaugural signing of the first CROWN Act legislation, National CROWN Day is now celebrated on July 3rd every year. Dove and the CROWN Coalition collaborate to host festivities, events, and awards ceremonies spread the word and mission.

Is it a federal law?

While not yet a federal law, Congress passed the CROWN Act on May 18, 2022. It currently sits with the Senate, where it needs at least 51 of 100 Senate votes to pass. 

From there, it would move on to President Biden, who will have the final choice to veto or sign it into law. If passed, the CROWN Act would make natural hair discrimination federally illegal. The Biden Administration “strongly supports” the bill, and Vice President Kamala Harris will get the tie-breaking vote if necessary.

The federal bill bans discrimination based on hairstyle or texture “if that hair texture or that hairstyle is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.” It specifically notes the following hairstyles predominantly worn by Black men and women:

  • Afros
  • Bantu knots
  • Braids
  • Cornrows
  • Dreadlocks
  • Twists

What about state CROWN Acts?

As of September 2022, 19 states have passed the CROWN Act, with legislation in the works in many other states. Additionally, a growing list of cities have instituted their own CROWN Acts.

Visit the official CROWN Act site to find out which states and cities have adopted the law. Employers should also check with their state and local governments for specific anti-discrimination regulations and details.

Creating Inclusive Policies Compliant with the CROWN Act

As the issue of natural hair discrimination becomes more prominent, and the CROWN Act quickly gains steam, employers must be wary of their dress code and grooming policies to remain compliant. 

As an employer, you can: 

  • Set grooming and dress standards for safety purposes
  • Require employees adhere to reasonable dress and grooming standards relative to your business

To ensure compliance with the state and/or city CROWN Act, employers should first review their dress code and grooming policies by:

  • Eliminating references to expressly prohibited hairstyles
  • Applying policies equally to all employees, regardless of race
  • Training employees on appearance policies
  • Incorporating progressive punishments for appearance policy violations

Additionally, companies should train leaders on:

  • Compliance and the history and meaning behind the legislation
  • Changes to the policies and how to handle appearance policy violations sensitively
  • Avoiding comments on an applicant’s appearance during the hiring process
  • Appropriate vs. inappropriate interview questions and comments

You might also consider providing unconscious bias training as part of your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training program.

The most important tip to remember as you develop or update your appearance and grooming policies: Don’t make them too detailed! This is where many employers get themselves in trouble with anti-discrimination law violations—whether intentional or not. 

For example, avoid listing specific hairstyles if long hair presents a safety hazard in the workplace. Instead, keep it simple by stating that hair must be shorter than a particular length or secured at all times.

If you need guidance as you review your employee policies to create an inclusive work environment, contact BlueLion at 603-818-4131 or today! Our experienced HR consultants will ensure you remain compliant while building a welcoming, healthy work culture. 

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.