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How does the CROWN Act affect your right to wear your hair?

California’s CROWN Act is over a year old. Yet not every employer will have got the message. There is still a chance your boss discriminates against you because of your hair.

CROWN stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The act aims to recognize hair discrimination and stop it from happening. It does so by classifying it as a form of racial discrimination.

Can anyone claim discrimination under the CROWN Act?

The CROWN Act covers “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”

If a company told white men in their 60s, they could not use a combover to hide their bald patch, or if it said French women could not cut their hair in a bob, people might consider that discrimination. However, the main reason for the law is because of things employers have said to black workers about their hair.

A flick through old California employee manuals will turn up many dress codes stipulating how workers must wear their hair. Where employers did not write it, they would sometimes set expectations verbally. They based their standards on the locks of those who had European origins.

What is a natural hairstyle for one race is not natural for the other. Yet, black women had to make their hair conform to standards that were not natural for their hair texture. To make curly hair straight, you have to iron it or use chemicals.

It is not only black employees that the act will protect. Native Americans, Hassidic Jews, Sikhs and others have suffered discrimination for how they wear their hair. Seek legal help if you are unsure whether your employer’s actions count as discrimination.


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