On July 3, California became the first state to pass legislation that bans discrimination based on natural hairstyles. Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair). The CROWN Act amends the state’s Government Code and Education Code to define “race or ethnicity” as “inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The new law expressly protects hairstyles including, but not limited to, “braids, locks, and twists.” Governor Newsom called the law “long overdue.” The bill passed unanimously in the senate and the assembly, and takes effect on January 1, 2020.
New York has quickly followed. On July 12, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Assembly Bill 07797, which “prohibits race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles,” into law effective immediately. The bill amends New York’s Human Rights Law and Dignity for All Students Act to make clear that discrimination based on race includes hairstyles or traits associated with race. This new law is also in line with the guidelines recently released by the New York City Commission on Human Rights back in February, which “protects the rights of New Yorkers to maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities.”
Civil rights advocates anticipate the California and New York laws will prohibit grooming policies that place undue burden on people of color, particularly those who identify as having African ancestry.