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HR 2116 and What You Need to Know About Hairstyle Discrimination

On March 18, the United States House of Representatives passed HR 2116 by a vote of 235-to-189. The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (a/k/a CROWN Act), would restrict discrimination on the basis of hair texture or style in Federally Assisted Programs, Housing Programs under the Fair Housing Act, Public Accommodations, and Employment.

Research from the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Coalition indicates that black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair and are 80% more likely than white women to agree with the statement, “I have to change my hair from its natural state to fit in at the office.”

At this time, the following states have CROWN Acts, protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of hair texture or style: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Virginia.

As to the anti-discrimination provision applicable to employers, the text of the proposed statute provides that employers cannot “fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against an individual, based on the individual’s hair texture or hairstyle, if that hair texture or that hairstyle is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin (including a hairstyle in which hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros).” The Act would be enforced as though it were incorporated within Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

While the bill has not yet passed the Senate, Employers should take pro-active steps to amend policies should the Act be passed. First, Employers should review their internal policies to make sure that policies are clear and non-discriminatory. This should include any EEO/Anti-discrimination policy, hiring policies, and dress code and grooming policies. Employers should make sure that there is no language in the policies that would ban or otherwise restrict an employee’s ability to maintain their nature hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locks, twists, or bantu knots.

Additionally, language should be added to the EEO/anti-discrimination policy to note that employees will not be discriminated against on the basis of race (including hair texture or protective hairstyles).

Contact Tawny Alvarez or a member of Verrill’s Employment and Labor department should you have questions as to this pending bill.

Topics: Accommodation, Discrimination