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Appearance Policies should be Updated with Passage of “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act” (CROWN Act)

On December 19, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act” (CROWN Act) making it unlawful to target individuals at work, school or in public places due to hair appearance.  The CROWN Act amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJ LAD) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.” The amendment defines “protective hairstyles” to include “such hairstyles as braids, locks and twists,” but does not limit the definition to those styles.  The law took effect immediately.

The CROWN Act was enacted in the wake of a December 19, 2018 incident during which a referee ordered a black high school wrestler in New Jersey to cut off his dreadlocks immediately or forfeit a match because the wrestler’s hair and hair cover allegedly violated wrestling rules. Previously, in September 2019, the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) had formally issued Guidance on Race Discrimination Based on Hairstyle to address this issue. New Jersey followed the models of California and New York and became the third state to enact legislation to protect individuals expressing their identity through natural and other hairstyles.  Many other states are also considering similar legislation.

Employers are advised to review and update their grooming policies and provide compliance training.

This summary is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. This information should not be reused without permission.