A Southland lawmaker’s bill to prevent workplace hair-grooming rules that discriminate against styles favored by people of color was signed Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, making California the first state in the country to ban racial discrimination based on natural hair.
Introduced by Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, SB 188 aims to “create a respectful and open workplace for natural hair” by clarifying that traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and hairstyle, be protected from discrimination in the workplace and in K-12 public and charter schools.
Known as the CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair,” the bill was sponsored by a coalition comprised of the National Urban League, Western Center on Law & Poverty, Color Of Change and the Dove personal care brand, according to Mitchell.
“In California, we celebrate the contributions of everyone — no matter where they are from, who they love, what language they speak, and, thanks to Senator Mitchell, no matter how they wear their hair,” Newsom said.
Mitchell said the CROWN Act “is about inclusion, pride and choice.”
“This law protects the right of black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms,” she said. “I am so excited to see the culture change that will ensue from the law.”
According to the governor’s office, the new law amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Education Code to prohibit employers and schools from enforcing purportedly “race neutral” grooming policies that disproportionately impact people of color. Under the bill, employers will still be able to make and enforce certain policies, as long as they are valid and non-discriminatory and have no disparate impact. For example, employers can still require employees to secure their hair for safety or hygienic reasons.
Similar legislation has been proposed in New York and New Jersey. New York City banned hair discrimination in February.
The full text of the bill can be found at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
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