In 2019, Dove, the organization Color Of Change, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty sponsored The CROWN Act. CROWN stands for Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair. This law intends to eliminate hair-based discrimination, especially toward natural and protective hairstyles predominately worn by black people.
The US House passed the CROWN Act as bill HR5309 in 2020. The rule applied not only to the workplace but also to federal assistance programs, housing programs, and public accommodations. Yet, HR5309 failed in the Senate later that same year.
In March 2021, Congress reintroduced the bill. It’s still to be seen whether history will repeat itself but, in the meantime, a handful of states have passed their own version of the The CROWN Act.
In which states is discrimination against natural black hair and protective hairstyles illegal? We’re diving deep into hair discrimination in the US and the states that are making moves to stop it next.
- The US has a long history of hair discrimination. For example, in the 1700s, the Tignon Laws were passed in Louisiana. These laws required women of color to cover their hair with a scarf or tignon.
- Black students, and especially young black girls, are disciplined disproportionately for violating school grooming policies. In one of the most well-known cases, a Florida prep school disciplined a student for wearing her hair natural, claiming her natural hair violated the dress code.
- According to The CROWN Research Study, employers are over 3 times as likely to perceive black women’s hair as unprofessional compared to non-black women.
- The US military recently changed its grooming policies to reflect the concerns of female and particularly black female soldiers who are often disciplined for failing to adhere to authorized hairstyles.
- One of the most famous cases of hair discrimination in sports occurred when a high school wrestler who is black was forced to either cut off his dreads or forfeit a wrestling match.
- 13 states, 22 cities, and 6 counties have passed The CROWN Act or a similar law banning hair discrimination in the workplace, at school, or both.
- 17 US states have either filed or pre-filed the CROWN Act or a similar law.
- The following states have never filed The CROWN Act or a similar law: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The History of Black Hair Discrimination in the US
Hair discrimination isn’t new. In fact, US states have been passing laws that discriminate against black hair since the 1700s. Check out more facts about the history of black hair discrimination in the US below.
- 18th Century Louisiana passed the Tignon Laws, requiring women of color to wear a “tignon” or scarf over their hair. These laws came about because black women preferred elaborate hairstyles, which attracted wealthy white male attention.
- At the end of the 1800s, Madam C.J. Walker invented the hair-straightening comb. This invention spurred black women to straighten their hair as a signal of class.
- Straight hair was the norm for much of the early 20th century. Yet, in 1972, researchers studied the hair preferences of black teens in St. Louis, MO. The study showed that 90% of young black men and 40% of young black women preferred natural styles.
- In 1976, the first-ever natural hair discrimination case went to the US Court of Appeals. This case is known as Jenkins v. Blue Cross Mutual Hospital Insurance and it set the standard for fighting bias against afros in the workplace.
- Despite Jenkins v. Blue Cross, a 1981 lawsuit brought against American Airlines established legal precedent for workplace discrimination against protective hairstyles. This precedent allowed Hyatt Regency hotels to legally fire Cheryl Tatum in the 1990s when she refused to take out her cornrows while in the workplace.
Can Your School Dictate Your Hair?
Research shows that black students, and especially black girls, are disciplined for low-level offenses at disproportionate rates. Low-level offenses include dress code and/or hair violations. Here are some examples of this type of black hair discrimination in schools:
- In 2017, a Florida prep school claimed that a black student’s natural hair violated dress code, so school officials asked her to change it.
- Also in 2017, a Boston charter school issued two black students multiple detentions for wearing their hair in braided extensions.
- In August 2018, an elementary school student in Louisiana was sent home for wearing her hair in braided extensions, an apparent dress code violation.
- Also in 2018, Success Academy High School in New York mandated that its students stop wearing headscarves and headwraps to school. To this day, the school still bans students from wearing durags to school.
- In 2019, an Atlanta elementary school banned all “inappropriate” hairstyles, including braids. The school also showed photos of young black children wearing braids to illustrate what was and was not allowed.
- In August 2020, a Texas school district attempted to force a young black man to cut his dreadlocks, saying they violated the school dress code.
Are Workplace Grooming Policies Discriminatory?
In partnership with Dove, The CROWN Research Study investigated black womens’ experiences of hair discrimination in the workplace. Below, you can check out some of the findings from this study and facts about recent black hair discrimination in the workplace cases.
- Black and African-American workers are >15% more likely to receive formal guidance about workplace attire and grooming policy compared to non-black workers.
- Non-black workers are 14% more likely to say they never received formal attire and grooming policy guidance than black and African-American workers.
- Black and African-American workers are also more likely to receive guidance about workplace attire and grooming policies during job orientation (35%) or during the initial interview process (22%). Compare this to non-black workers, 17% of whom say they received these policies during orientation and 23% of whom say they received these policies during the interview process.
- A study looked at the perceived job performance “readiness” of black women with different hairstyles. Employers perceived black women with cropped, straightened hair (the highest job readiness score) as 18% more ready for job performance compared to black women with twists (the lowest job readiness score).
- Employers perceive black women with natural hair as 24%–25% less job ready than average compared to black women with straightened hair, who are perceived as 13%–15% less job ready than average.
- In 2013, an employer rescinded a black woman’s job offer because she refused to cut off her locs. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commussion (EEOC) then filed a lawsuit on her behalf, arguing that discrimination against Jones’ locs was also racial discrimination.
- In a 2019 study, researchers found employers perceive black women sporting natural hairstyles as less professional, less competent, and less interviewable than black women with straightened hair and white women with straight, straightened, or curly hair.
- When applying for industry jobs with dress codes, black women wearing their hair naturally received more negative interview evaluations compared to black women with straightened hair and white women with straight, straightened, or curly hair.
- According to research, workplaces are 1.5x more likely to send black women home from the workplace due to their hair and 3.4x more likely to perceive black womens’ hair as unprofessional.
- Black women are 80% more likely than white women to say that they have to change their natural hair to fit in at the workplace.
Which Hairstyles Are Authorized for Black Women in the Military?
For decades, grooming guidelines for women in the military banned protective hairstyles. Further, black female soldiers were forced to straighten their hair to fit into a bun. If soldiers couldn’t meet these standards, they faced significant penalties.
In February 2021, the US Army changed its guidelines. Now, soldiers can wear their hair in braids, twists, cornrows, and locs. Additionally, black women with natural hair that’s too short to tie back in a bun are now allowed to wear their hair in short ponytail styles.
Check out some of the hairstyles previously unauthorized by the US Army below.
- Before 2021, female soldiers couldn’t wear hair clips or “loose” hairstyles.
- Black women, in particular, were affected by the US Army’s stipulation that a female soldier’s hair couldn’t extend more than 2 inches from the scalp, affecting black women with afros.
- Before 2021, women weren’t allowed to wear headbands.
- The ban on braids and twists also discriminated against traditional black protective hairstyles.
Are Sports Guilty of Black Hair Discrimination?
Hair discrimination in the US has gone on for centuries. Yet, it wasn’t until 2018 that the issue caught national attention when a referee forced a young black man to cut his locs or forfeit a wrestling match.
Fast forward three years and, though anti-hair discrimination efforts have made headway, we still have a long way to go. Here’s why.
- In May 2021, an umpire forced a black softball player in North Carolina to cut out her hair beads or forfeit the game, despite the fact that she’d worn the hairstyle in previous games with no issue.
- This year, the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) — the Olympics’ official water sports administerer — came under fire for rejecting an application for Soul Cap’s swim caps to be worn at the Olympics. Soul Cap is a British company that produces swim caps exclusively for textured and black hair. FINA claimed it rejected Soul Cap due to the “size and configuration” of the caps.
Where Is the CROWN Act Law?
The CROWN Act may not be Federal law but it is law in more than a dozen US states. Check out the image below to find out whether The CROWN Act or a similar bill is law in your state. And keep reading below for details about The CROWN Act in all fifty states.
- Alabama legislators filed The CROWN Act in March 2021. It’s known as HB87 in the state.
- If passed, HB87 would protect black people from hair discirmination in the workplace and at school.
- Alaska has never filed The CROWN Act.
- The CROWN Act is law in the city of Tucson, AZ.
- Arkansas has filed The CROWN Act before, but it failed to pass.
- California was the first state to pass the CROWN Act. The law went into effect on January 1, 2020.
- California’s CROWN Act bans discrimination against hair textures as well as natural and protective hairstyles at school, in the workplace, and when applying for housing. These entities can no longer enforce policies banning afros, braids, twists, locs, and any other hairstyles associated with race.
- Los Angeles-based Senator Holly Mitchell introduced the bill in January 2019 and California Governor Gavin Newsom signed it into law in July 2019.
- Colorado was the fifth state to pass the CROWN Act.
- Colorado passed the CROWN Act in March 2020 and the law went into effect later that year. The law expands on Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, stating that hairstyles associated with a certain race are part of the Act’s definition of “race”.
- This new law means it is now illegal for employers to enforce grooming policies banning braids, locs, twists, cornrows, Bantu knots, afros, headwraps, and other natural black hairstyles.
- Connecticut passed the CROWN Act in March 2021 and the new law went into effect immediately, making it the eighth US state to outlaw hair discrimination.
- Employers in Connecticut are now outlawed from enforcing discriminatory grooming policies, including those that ban wigs, headwraps, and protective and natural black hairstyles.
- Delaware was the tenth state to make The CROWN Act law.
- Delaware’s governor signed The CROWN Act into law in April 2021. Like laws before it, Connecticut’s CROWN Act intends to protect people from discrimination for natural and protective hairstyles, including braids, locs, and twists.
- This law applies to both employers and schools, meaning it’s now illegal to enforce grooming policies banning the above hairstyles.
- Florida state senator Kamia Brown has sponsored the CROWN Act (known as HB 179 in Florida) twice now, but it has failed to pass both times. If this year’s bill had passed, it would have taken effect on July 1, 2021.
- If HB 179 is sponsored and passed for 2022’s legislative session, the bill would make it illegal for landlords, employers, and educators to discriminate against hairstyles, especially black hairstyles.
- In Broward County, FL, a version of the CROWN Act is law.
- Georgia’s version of The CROWN Act is known as SB 286, but it isn’t a state law as of this writing.
- Various cities in the Atlanta metroplex have passed their own versions of the CROWN Act, including East Point, South Fulton, Stockbridge, and Clayton County. These laws prohibit race-based hair discrimination in the workplace.
- Hawaii has never filed The CROWN Act.
- Idaho has never filed The CROWN Act.
- Illinois passed The CROWN Act in 2020 and it went into effect on January 1, 2021. It was inspired by a 4-year-old black boy whose school forced him to remove his braids to comply with the school grooming policy.
- Under the new bill, Illinois public and private schools will no longer be allowed to ban braids, locks, twists, or any other hairstyles associated with a racial or ethnic group.
- Indiana has filed The CROWN Act before, but it failed to pass.
- Iowa has filed The CROWN Act before, but it failed to pass.
- According to some sources, Iowa’s CROWN Act has been filed or pre-filed again in 2021.
- Kansas has filed The CROWN Act before, but it failed to pass.
- Kansas’ CROWN Act has been filed or pre-filed again in 2021.
- Like Florida, Kentucky has tried and failed to pass the CROWN Act twice. If passed in the next legislative session, the bill would protect braids, locs, and twists from discriminatory workplace and school policies.
- In March 2021, Kentucky youths protested at the Kentucky State Capitol building to support HB 43, Kentucky’s version of the CROWN Act.
- The CROWN Act is law in the city of Covington, KY.
- In 2021, the Louisiana Senate agreed to pass SB61, the state’s version of the CROWN Act. However, the bill failed in the House in June.
- If passed during the next legislative section, SB61 would outlaw workplace discrimination against traditional black hairstyles.
- Maine has filed a version of The CROWN Act but it failed to pass.
- Maryland was the seventh state to pass a version of The CROWN Act.
- In May 2020, Maryland passed HB1444, the state’s version of the CROWN Act. This law illegalizes natural black hair discrimination in the workplace.
- After failing to pass in 2019, a version of the CROWN Act has made it through the Massachusetts House and Senate. The bill is currently with the Judiciary Committee for review.
- Massachusetts’ law is more expansive than its predecessors. If passed, it would outlaw discrimination against all natural hairstyles, regardless of whether the style is considered a part of a racial group or not. The law will apply to schools (including charter schools) and workplaces.
- The state of Michigan has yet to pass the CROWN Act.
- In March 2021, Ingham County, Michigan approved a measure to end workplace policies that discriminate against black hair.
- Minnesota has filed The CROWN Act before but it failed to pass.
- Mississippi has filed The CROWN Act before but it failed to pass.
- In March 2021, Missouri’s Special House Committee on Urban Issues filed a version of the CROWN Act. The bill has yet to make it to the governor’s office, though. If passed, public schools could no longer discriminate against protective hairstyles or black hair textures.
- Kansas City, MO passed the CROWN Act in 2020. The bill is known as Ordinance No. 200837 and makes it illegal to enforce grooming policies that discriminate against race-based hairstyles and hair textures.
- In May 2021, St. Louis and St. Louis County passed the CROWN Act. Known as Board Bill 222, this law forbids employers and schools from enforcing discriminatory grooming policies.
- Montana has never filed The CROWN Act.
- Nebraska was the 11th US state to pass a version of the CROWN Act. Known as LB451, the bill was signed into law in May 2021 and went into effect a few months later.
- LB451 will ensure that black men and women who choose natural and/or protective hairstyles will no longer be discriminated against in the workplace or at school.
- Nevada signed SB327 into law on June 2, 2021, making it the 12th state to make hair discrimination illegal. This bill is the state’s version of the CROWN Act.
- Effective immediately, SB327 prevents schools and employers from enforcing grooming policies that discriminate against protective hairstyles and “ethnic hair textures.”
- New Hampshire has never filed The CROWN Act.
- New Jersey was the third US state to pass a version of the CROWN Act.
- New Jersey’s CROWN Act was passed in December 2019 after a viral video of a New Jersey high school wrestler forced to cut his locs or forfeit a wrestling match.
- Since passing the law, New Jersey has released detailed guidance about protected hairstyles. The list of protected hairstyles includes fades and hairstyles worn with lines shaved into them.
- New Mexico signed the CROWN Act into law in April 2021, making it the ninth state to ban hair discrimination.
- The New Mexico law forbids schools and employers from enforcing grooming policies against natural and protective hairstyles. It also outlaws hair-based discrimination as reason for turning someone down for a job.
- New York was the second US state to pass the CROWN Act. Signed into law in July 2019, the bill went into effect immediately.
- New York’s CROWN Act doesn’t just apply to hairstyle-based discrimination in the workplace and schools. It also bans people and entities from discriminating against protective and natural hairstyles in public places.
- Like New Jersey, New York has released a detailed list of the protected hairstyles schools and workplaces cannot discriminate against.
- North Carolina has yet to pass its own version of the CROWN Act. Legislation has been filed previously, but it failed to pass.
- In January 2021, the Durham City Council passed a law banning workplaces from enforcing grooming policies targeting traditional black hairstyles, including braids, locs, and afros. THe city is planning to pass a version of the CROWN Act, too.
- Also in January 2021, the city of Greensboro, North Carolina passed a similar anti-hair discrimination law.
- North Dakota has never filed The CROWN Act.
- The state of Ohio introduced the CROWN Act in 2020, but it failed to pass.
- This year, Representative Juanita Brent has reintroduced it as HB 535. If passed, the law would ban discrimination against race-based hairstyles and textures in schools, workplaces, and public accommodation and housing. Further, the law would ban hair-based discriminatory practices by credit lenders.
- In March 2021, the city of Columbus passed its own version of the CROWN Act.
- Oklahoma has filed The CROWN Act before, but it failed to pass.
- Oregon’s House and Senate passed HB2935 in June 2021. Under the law, public schools and employers will no longer be allowed to enforce grooming policies discriminating against natural black hair and protective hairstyles.
- The law must be signed by Oregon state governor, Kate Brown, before it officially becomes law.
- The CROWN Act failed to pass in Pennsylvania in 2020, but is now being proposed again for 2021.
- Allegheny County, PA and Pittsburgh, PA have passed the CROWN Act. The latter law specifies that it is now illegal to discriminate against race-based hair textures, braids, cornrows, locs, Bantu knots, afros, twists, and any other hairstyle associated with racial or ethnic background.