SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A person’s hairstyle and hair texture may not be used to discriminate against someone in the workplace or K-12 schools.

The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act, also known as Senate Bill 188, passed its first Assembly committee Tuesday.

The bill aims to add hairstyle and texture discrimination to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Protected hairstyles and textures include braids, afros, locks, kinky hair, and twists. The current Act states: “it is unlawful to engage in specified discriminatory employment practices, including hiring, promotion, and termination based on certain protected characteristics, including race, unless based on a bona fide occupational qualification or applicable security regulations. The act also prohibits housing discrimination based on specified personal characteristics, including race.”

Those characteristics include:

  • Race
  • Religious Beliefs
  • Sex
  • Age

The bill’s author, Senator Holly Mitchell, told her legislative colleagues: “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. 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 CROWN Act states:

  • discrimination against “blackness” and its associated physical traits is pervasive in society and permeates the societal understanding of professionalism;
  • this racist, Eurocentric outlook manifests itself in workplace dress codes, grooming policies, and expectations that disparately impact Black workers;
  • the federal courts have failed to provide adequate protection against such discrimination under federal civil rights laws;
  • hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination; and
  • continuing to enforce Eurocentric images of professionalism through purportedly race-neutral grooming policies that disparately impact Black
    individuals run contrary to constitutional values of equity and opportunity for all.

However, the bill would not prevent employers from creating and enforcing grooming policies; however, those rules would need to be imposed for “valid, non-discriminatory reasons, have no disparate impact, and are uniformly applied.”

SB 188 previously passed the Senate unanimously. It goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee next.


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