On March 4, 2021, Governor Lamont signed into law the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair. Connecticut follows California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Colorado, Washington, and Virginia in adopting legislation that aims to prohibit discrimination on the basis of ethnic hairstyles historically associated with race.
The CROWN Act expands the definition of “race” under Connecticut’s Human Rights and Opportunities statute (General Statutes § 46a-51, et. seq.) to include traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles, such as braids, locs and twists. For employers, this means that it is illegal to discriminate against applicants or employees because they maintain their natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial identity. Although hair texture and protective hairstyles are specifically mentioned, other traits historically associated with race may also be afforded protection under the statute.
Employers are encouraged to review their grooming policies and eliminate any provisions that may violate the CROWN Act. This may include policies that require employees to adopt a certain hairstyle; prohibit employees from wearing certain hairstyles; or indicate a preference for certain hairstyles over others. Employers are also encouraged to train their employees, especially managers or supervisors, to recognize and detect bias on the basis of traits historically associated with race.