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The CROWN Act could become federal law

It's been a year since California became the first state to outlaw discrimination against natural hair in the workplace. Since then, six other states and two municipalities in additional states have passed their own CROWN Act. CROWN stands for Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair. Meanwhile, 23 state legislatures are considering similar laws.

California State Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, who led the fight for the state law, said last year, "Until Congress is able to recognize that the quality of my work as an employee or student is based on what's inside my head and not how I choose to wear my hair, we will continue the state-by-state strategy to pass the CROWN Act in every state in our nation."

The U.S. Congress is taking up the issue, too. Last December, Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Cedric Richmond introduced CROWN bills in the Senate and House of Representatives. The cause has been taken up by Dove, which makes a variety of personal care products, including hair products.

Sen. Booker, who represents New Jersey and was one of the contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, said, "Implicit and explicit biases against natural hair are deeply ingrained in workplace norms and society at large. This is a violation of our civil rights, and it happens every day for black people across the country."

The California CROWN Act says, "Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter black applicants and burden or punish black employees than any other group."

All managers, supervisors and human resources employees in your organization need to be familiar with the CROWN Act to help avoid unnecessary legal issues. If you have questions or concerns or if you are anticipating a legal action from an employee or applicant, talk with an experienced attorney.

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