On July 3, 2019, California governor Gavin Newsom signed the Crown Act into law, making California the first state to ban discrimination based on Natural Hair.
The Crown Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair,” makes discrimination or unequal treatment based on the kinky or curly hair texture of an applicant or employee unlawful under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. California state Senator Holly Mitchell introduced the issue that the bill addressed, explaining that kinky and curly hair—like race—is a basic physical characteristic that has historically been the cause of unequal treatment for people of African descent. The Crown Act aims to address the notion that common hairstyles for people with kinky and/or curly hair, such as braids, locs, or twists, are unprofessional and outside the norm. Such notions have historically required applicants and employees of African descent to use harmful styling practices to chemically alter the natural characteristics of their hair.
As Senator Mitchell explained, the Crown Act “prohibits employers from enforcing purportedly ‘race neutral’ grooming policies that disproportionately impact persons of color.” You can read more about the bill here.
Eyes are now on New York, which is poised to become the second state to pass such a law. The bill has passed through the legislature and is now awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature.