The Newest Protected Category – CROWN Discrimination

As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the various state and local enforcement agencies continue to expand the definition of unlawful discrimination and add additional areas of prohibited employment discrimination, we are now seeing the emergence of CROWN, which is discrimination against race-based hairstyle. CROWN is an acronym which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” and prohibits employers from making an employment decision based on a person’s hairstyle.

As of this writing, eight states have passed a CROWN law and 25 other states have it under consideration. The eight states that have already passed a CROWN law are California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Maryland, Connecticut and Washington. A number of individual municipalities have also passed a CROWN law.

According to their website, (The Official Campaign of the CROWN Act) “We’re ending Hair Discrimination. The CROWN Act was created in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN coalition to ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists and knots in the workplace and in public schools.”

If you have employees in states or municipalities that have passed the CROWN Act, we recommend that you add a provision to your employee handbook in your Equal Employment Opportunity policy. For example, “In addition, we do not discriminate on the basis of race-based hairstyles.”

This new requirement raises a number of questions which will need to be worked out over time; one possible question being to what extent will this requirement affect dress codes and interaction with customers?

For many years, EEOC gave employers wide latitude in establishing dress codes. In the last several years, EEOC has added language protecting employees who have dress or grooming practices based on a religious belief. We recommend that you include this language in your employee handbook, as well. The question of dress codes is evolving and we recommend that all employers examine their dress code policies to make sure they’re in compliance with the latest EEOC regulations.

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