California to Become First State to Ban Discrimination Based on Natural Hairstyles

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On Thursday, the California State Assembly approved the CROWN ACT in Senate Bill 188, which would ban discrimination based on hair associated with race.

The bill passed in a 69-0 vote and moves forward to Governor Newsom’s desk for signature. The bill had passed the State Senate in a 37-0 vote in April.

Introduced by Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, SB 188 aims to “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” (the CROWN Act) by clarifying that traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and hairstyle, be protected from discrimination in the work place and in our K-12 public and charter schools.

“Many Black employees, including your staff, members, will tell you if given the chance that the struggle to maintain what society has deemed a ‘professional image’ while protecting the health and integrity of their hair remains a defining and paradoxical struggle in their work experience, not usually shared by their non-Black peers,” Mitchell said shortly before the Senate vote.  “Members, it is 2019. Any law that sanctions a job description that immediately excludes me from a position, not because of my capabilities or experience but because of my hair, is long overdue for reform.”

The C.R.O.W.N. (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural hair) Act will ensure protection against discrimination in the workplace and schools based on hairstyles by prohibiting employers and schools from enforcing purportedly “race neutral” grooming policies that disproportionately impact persons of color.   Additionally, while anti-discrimination laws presently protect the choice to wear an Afro, Afros are not the only natural presentation of Black hair. SB 188 will ensure protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the California Education Code.

The CROWN Act corrects an inconsistency in existing anti-discrimination laws by amending the California Government and Education Codes to protect against discrimination based on traits historically associated with race such as hair texture and protective hairstyles.  The Coalition, in support of The CROWN Act, aims to put an end to the significant injustices of hair discrimination that has spanned decades across the United States.

For more information on SB 188 ‘The CROWN Act’ click here and click here to see the legislation.

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