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California is the First State to Ban Discrimination Based on Natural Hair

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

This summer, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that protects people from discrimination based on their natural hair. The law went into effect on January 1, 2020, ending the enforcement of employment grooming policies that unfairly impact people of color. Employers often banned certain hairstyles such as afros, braids, twists, cornrows, and dreadlocks, which disproportionately affect black Americans. This is a positive first step in acknowledging racial discrimination in many aspects of employment.

The bill named “The CROWN Act” passed without opposition through the California Assembly and Senate. It adds physical traits (like skin color and hair texture) typically associated with race to be protected from discrimination. The intent is to provide a supportive and respectful environment for natural hair. 

The creation of this bill was sparked by a case in New Jersey that involved a black student who was on the school wrestling team. A referee forced the student to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit the match. The student felt it was as though he had to choose between participating in a sport he loved or give up part of his identity. This isn’t an isolated incident. All across the country, people of color are experiencing this type of subtle (and not so subtle) discrimination. Employers have often described natural hair as unprofessional; an association rooted deeply in historical racism.

The implementation of this new law is a good start towards shifting racist employment standards but is by no means enough. Everyone must continue to take steps to abolish institutional racism, and we continue to bring bills forward that are in congruence with that mission. 

If you have experienced discrimination based on your hairstyle or hair texture, you must speak to an attorney immediately. This new law is now in effect and can help protect you from workplace discrimination. Contact the Law Offices of Tanya Gomerman and schedule a FREE consultation to discuss your case. Call (415) 545-8608 today. 

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