Banning natural hair at work is race discrimination

For some women, a bad hair day is a day when they can’t get their hair to do what they want it to do. For others, some employers may consider their own natural hair a bad hair day. For years, this prejudice has forced women of color to undergo painful, expensive and even toxic measures to turn their natural hair into a style more acceptable in the workplace. Fortunately, this kind of race discrimination is no longer acceptable in California businesses since the CROWN act went into effect earlier this year.

The CROWN act stands for Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair. While the law originated to protect employees of color in California, numerous other states have adopted similar laws. Natural hair includes many Black hairstyles that some employers at one time even prohibited in their dress code policies. Some employee handbooks even describe natural styles as “unkempt.”

More than half of Black women who took a recent survey said they knew of someone whose employer sent her home because of a natural hairstyle, such as the following:

  • Cornrows
  • Afros
  • Braids
  • Dreadlocks
  • Twists

With the passage of CROWN, employers may no longer include such discriminatory restrictions in their policies or mistreat employees of color simply because of their natural hair. Legal advocates encourage employees who experience such race discrimination to carefully document these incidents. Additionally, those who feel their employer is violating their rights would be wise to reach out to an attorney who is well-versed in California employment laws.