While the rest of the country was celebrating with fireworks, last week California celebrated the Fourth of July with Governor Newsom signing the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace For Natural Hair) into law. It had already passed unanimously in the California Assembly and Senate. The Act prohibits the enforcement of dress codes or grooming policies in the workplace or K-12 schools that disproportionally affect people of color, in particular black people. The prohibition includes hairstyles such as afros, braids, twists, and dreadlocks.
The bill was introduced earlier this year by Los Angeles Democrat, Senator Holly Mitchell. Senator Mitchell was spurred to action after a black woman from Alabama brought her case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 after she lost a job offer allegedly due to her refusal to cut her dreadlocks. Also gaining national attention last year was a New Jersey high school wrestler who was forced to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match.
The impetus behind the bill was to allow for a respectful and open workplace or school environment, irrespective of hairstyle. It also challenges what defines “professionalism” in the workplace.
In February, New York City passed a similar law protecting employee’s rights to have hairstyles that are connected with racial, ethnic or cultural identities. And other states are considering similar laws. Check out our earlier blog on the New York City law HERE.