On July 3, 2019 California became the first state to ban workplace and school discrimination against the wearing of hairstyles such as braids, twists and locks when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 188. This new legislation aims to create a respectful and open workplace for “natural hair” and end discrimination against hairstyles like braids, locks (or locs), and twists in the workplace and in K-12 public and charter schools.
The bill is known as the “CROWN Act” which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” and was sponsored by a coalition comprised of the National Urban League, Western Center on Law & Poverty, Color Of Change and the Dove personal care brand.
The new law means employees (and students) are able to wear their natural hairstyles, including dreadlocks, twists and braids, to the office (or in the classroom) without fear of discrimination. These hairstyles, and hair texture, are now considered “protected” under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (The Act).
The Act provides that it is unlawful to engage in specified discriminatory employment practices based on certain “protected characteristics”, including race. Existing law correctly defines terms such as race, for purposes of the Act. The amendments to the Act expand the definition of “race”.
SB 188 states “This bill would provide that the definition of race for these purposes also include traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles, and would define protective hairstyles for purposes of these provisions.
The language of SB 188, state in part:
“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.”
The Act is amended to read:
- Section (w): “Race” is inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.
- Section (x): “Protective hairstyles” includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.
Under this new law, employers may not take into consideration an applicant or employee’s “protective hairstyles” in any employment related decision, unless such could create a safety concern for the employee or others in the workplace. However, such safety determination would require evidence that such actually could or would create a hazard to be enforceable. Click here to read full text of the Bill.
California employers should review their hiring practices, dress and grooming policies to comply with the new law. Managers should also be trained on the new law to prevent an allegation of violation of the Act in any hiring decision or other personnel decision.