News & Blog

RACE-BASED HAIR DISCRIMINATION IS LEGALLY PROHIBITED

January 3, 2020 • Posted By Elizabeth Kimundi • Labor & Employment

2019 brought major advancement in anti-discrimination law

s with three states enacting bills dubbed as Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (“CROWN Act”). California pioneered this movement with Governor Gavin Newson signing of the CROWN Act (SB-188) into law on July 3, 2019. The Act went into effect in California on January 1, 2020. New York was the second state to enact the CROWN Act, with Governor Andrew Cuomo signing the CROWN Act (S6209A/A7797A) into law on July 12, 2019 and deeming the legislation effective immediately in the state of New York. This past December New Jersey followed suit and on December 19, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed the CROWN Act (S-3945/A-5564) into law in New Jersey.

 The CROWN Act ensures protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protections to hair texture and protective hair styles such as braids, locks and twists plus afros.

 In New York, the CROWN Act amends the section 292 of the Human Rights Law and section 11 of the Dignity for All Students Act to add new subsections to the definition of race, to include “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles”.

The CROWN Act recognizes that workplace policies prohibiting 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 way one chooses to wear their hair is now legally protected and supported in New York State. Places of business and employers are now no longer allowed to discriminate against “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles”. Companies and employers should review their handbooks and policies to ensure they are in compliance with the CROWN Act’s provisions.

The attorneys at French and Casey are available to assist you in matters relating to the CROWN Act. For further information, contact Joseph A. French at Jfrench@frenchcasey.com and Elizabeth K. Kimundi at ekimundi@frenchcasey.com.