California Bill Aims to Prohibit Employers from Discriminating on Basis of Hairstyle

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A new California bill aims to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based upon their hairstyles. SB 188, also known as the “CROWN Act” (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural hair), proposes amending the Education Code and Government Code to define “race or ethnicity” as “inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The bill expressly defines “protective hairstyles” as including but not limited to “braids, locks, and twists.”

The preamble to SB 188 notes that “workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group…. [H]air today remains a proxy for race.”  The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), further states that “hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination.”

The CROWN Act passed 37-0 in the Senate and has been referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

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