It’s been a year and a half since Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the CROWN Act. The law says that California employers and schools cannot discriminate against people with natural hairstyles most commonly worn by Black people and cannot prohibit these styles. The state legislator who introduced the bill that became the CROWN Act – the first law of its kind in the U.S. — argued that a person’s hair is an extension of their race. Therefore, hair discrimination is racial discrimination.
The tide is turning
Since California’s CROWN Act was signed, six more states followed suit with similar laws, with more states considering a CROWN Act of their own. A federal bill was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives this fall but hasn’t made it through the Senate yet. The U.S. military is even loosening its restrictions on natural hairstyles.
The shipping giant UPS has now announced that it will allow natural hairstyles, including “afros, braids, curls, coils, locs, twists and knots” as well as beards. The company didn’t make the change without some significant pressure, including calls from the company’s union and a lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which it settled. The suit alleged that UPS discriminated against people whose religions conflicted with its policy on employee appearance in hiring and promotions.
Hair discrimination can happen anywhere, in any profession
While changes in corporate policies and in law can go a long way toward minimizing instances of hair discrimination, it may never be completely gone. Even in the supposedly liberal bastion of Hollywood, it continues, according to a number of actors who spoke out this year about being on sets where none of the hairstylists knew how to style Black hair. Actress Gabrielle Union, who says she was fired from America’s Got Talent, alleged that executives on the NBC show told her that her hairstyles were “too Black.”
Sometimes, the higher people climb on the corporate ladder, the more pressure there is to look a certain way. Long-held and outdated beliefs about what constitutes a “professional” appearance continue. However, at least here in California, the law can help you fight back. An experienced attorney can provide you with valuable guidance and support.