California moves to ban hair discrimination

Hair is sometimes referred to as someone’s “crowning glory,” so it’s only appropriate that a bill aimed at ending discrimination in California against historically black hairstyles is called the CROWN Act.

Otherwise known as Senate Bill 188, the “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” Act, was introduced to the state Senate by Senator Holly J. Mitchell. It passed with a 37-0 vote, which means that it will now move to the State Assembly for consideration.

If successful, California will become the second area (New York City was first) in the country to officially protect the rights of people of color to wear their hair in natural styles or styles associated with their ethnic and cultural identities. Many black people face chronic problems due to dress codes that include grooming mandates for their hair that are suited only toward whites. Natural black hair, twists, braids, fades, dreadlocks and other traditionally black hairstyles are often deemed “inappropriate” for work. This forces many people of color to spend thousands of dollars on wigs or submit to harsh chemical treatments, like relaxers, in order to “fit in.”

In her recorded introduction of the bill, Senator Mitchell noted that federal and state laws protect people from discrimination due to religious head coverings and hairstyles, but that people still often face reprimands at work, demotions and terminations for wearing their hair in a way that is deemed too unruly or distracting — even when it is merely natural. Racially “neutral” grooming policies often have a disparate impact on blacks and other people of color. It’s a humiliation that needs to end.

If you’re trying to cope with racial bias or discrimination in the workplace, you don’t have to fight for your rights alone. Find out more about the legal steps you can take against policies that have a disparate impact on people of color and acts of overt discrimination.