By: Cristina N. Hyde, JD
As 2020 comes to a close, many are striving to learn from the trials of this incredibly difficult year and make positive changes. Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, our country was challenged to confront the existing and equally insidious disease of systemic racism. While the battle is far from over, we are happy to witness CROWN Acts gaining a foothold within our state and local governments throughout the United States and also making strides at the federal level.
New Jersey’s CROWN Act was signed and went into effect immediately on December 19, 2020. The acronym stands for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act” and the act specifically addresses discrimination based on “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.” P.L. 2019, c.272 (2019). The amendment to the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) eliminates any confusion or ambiguity regarding the scope of LAD as applicable to race discrimination stemming from such traits.
This past October, the City of Pittsburg and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania joined New Jersey and several other states in enacting its own CROWN Act and just one month prior to that, the United States House of Representatives passed a CROWN Act (H.R. 5309), prohibiting discrimination based on a person’s hair texture or hair style if that style or texture is commonly associated with a person of a particular race or national origin. H.R. 5309 is currently being considered by the United States Senate.
With this in mind, employers should review their workplace policies related to appearance and be certain that their standards of professionalism clearly relate to legitimate health and safety concerns. While it would be ideal to not have any restrictions on appearance, those that do exist should be backed by objective evidence regarding their necessity.
If you would like assistance reviewing your workplace policies regarding appearance and hairstyles, please Contact Us.