Numerous states around the country have taken action to protect workers from discrimination on the basis of certain hairstyles that have a close connection to race or national origin. Many states have titled these bills the Create a Respectful and Open Workspace for Natural Hair Act, or CROWN Act. New Jersey passed its CROWN Act, which amended the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), in late 2019. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not specifically mention hairstyle discrimination as a form of race discrimination. On March 18, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal CROWN Act that will prohibit hairstyle discrimination nationwide if it becomes law. The U.S. Senate received the bill on March 22. If your employer has policies regarding appearance that conflict with your hairstyle, you may have a hairstyle discrimination claim. To learn more, reach out to a New Jersey employment lawyer as soon as possible.
Many employers have maintained policies regarding appearance that have particularly affected African-American workers and others with African ancestry. Policies that require a “professional” appearance often bar many hairstyles commonly associated with this group, including both natural and protective hairstyles. Complying with these workplace policies may require many employees to use expensive treatments to straighten their hair. Over time, these treatments can cause serious damage.
New Jersey’s CROWN Act amended the NJLAD’s definition of “race” to include “hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles,” along with other “traits historically associated with race.” The bill defined “protective hairstyles” to include “braids, locks, and twists.” Under New Jersey law, discrimination on the basis of hairstyles historically associated with race now constitutes race discrimination.