Advocating For California Employee Rights

How does the CROWN Act protect against hair discrimination?

On Behalf of | May 11, 2022 | Discrimination

Your employer might not like your hairstyle. That does not necessarily mean they can tell you to change it.

California’s Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act came into force in 2020. It recognized that hair discrimination is a form of racial discrimination and is therefore illegal under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Why was this needed if racial discrimination was already illegal?

Not everyone understood or accepted that telling someone to change their hairstyle was racial discrimination. Many argued it was merely enforcing company policies.

The problem is that those company hair policies did not consider the racial and cultural differences between hair.

Straight hair is easy for some people to achieve because it is natural for them. It is in their genes. Asking another person to conform to that standard might require them to use tongs or chemicals to alter their hair’s natural tendency because their genes dictated curly hair.

Specific hairstyles are related to race and the culture associated with that race. So employers may not tell someone of color to cut their dreadlocks or take out their cornrows or braids. They also cannot tell a Hassidic Jew to get rid of or hide their side curls.

Not all hair discrimination is so blatant

Just because your employer has never said anything about your hair does not mean they do not discriminate against you because of it. If they do not feel your hairstyle gives the image they want, they might overlook you for promotions or even fire you, all while blaming it on something else. If you believe your employer has discriminated against you because of your hair, seek help to understand your legal option.