Earlier last month, Virginia officially adopted the CROWN Act into its legislature effectively banning discrimination against natural hairstyles. The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act (SB 188) was originally enacted exactly a year prior on July 3rd, 2019 in California. New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, Colorado, and now Virginia have their own spin on the Californian law.
This law is a legal attempt to challenge the idea that European features and norms are inherently linked to professionalism. The law acknowledges that while many legal strides at barring discrimination have been made, there has been a huge gap with still permitting problematic grooming policies. The first section of this law establishes this link between banning natural hairstyles and discriminating against black employees and applicants. The law states that “policies prohibiting natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as those are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group.”
In 2019, JOY Collective conducted a study of 1000 Black and 1000 non-Black women across various ages, working or recently having worked in a corporate setting and found 80% of Black women have had to change their hair’s state to fit into a corporate office as some point in their professional careers. The study also concluded that Black female professionals were 1.5 times more likely to be sent home based on their hairstyle in comparison to their non-Black peers. You can find more details about this survey here.
It’s no question that the recent social climate is leading many employers to double down on sensitivity training and discrimination prevention. With 7 states now enacting this law and more in the works of adopting it, it’s important to note this wave of change. If you might be in a state not included in this list, it might still be prudent to check out the California law and consider its content in your pre-employment process.