Both New York City and California have recently taken steps to ban hairstyle-based discrimination. On Monday, April 22, 2019, the California State Senate passed the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair), which seeks to amend California’s anti-discrimination statute, the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (“FEHA”). The CROWN Act, if passed by the State Assembly, would modify FEHA’s definition of “race” to expressly include “traits historically associated with one’s race, such as hair texture and protective hairstyles.” Protective hairstyles are those that allow the wearer to avoid regular and harmful hair treatment, such as hair relaxers, and include cornrows, braids, and locks.
Earlier this year, in February 2019, the New York City Human Rights Commission (“HRC”) issued a guidance memorandum clarifying that the City’s anti-discrimination law already prohibits hairstyle-based discrimination. The guidance memorandum states that the City’s anti-discrimination law protects people’s right to maintain “natural hair, treated or untreated … such as locks, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.” Continue Reading