New Law Will Prohibit Employers from Discriminating Based on Hairstyle

New Law Will Prohibit Employers from Discriminating Based on Hairstyle

On July 3, 2019, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 188 amending California’s anti-discrimination laws so that the definition of “race” will include “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles,” such as “braids, locks, and twists.” The California Fair Employment and Housing Act generally prohibits employers from harassing, discriminating or retaliating against applicants and employees because of enumerated immutable characteristics, including race, or because of a perception that a person has one of those protected characteristics or is associated with a person who has, or is perceived to have, any of those characteristics.

The Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act will become effective on January 1, 2020. It will apply to all public employers and private employers with five or more employees. Companies should review their dress codes and appearance policies to ensure that such are non-discriminatory, applied uniformly, do not have a disparate impact on a protected group of employees, and that any exception is based on a bona fide occupational qualification, security regulation, or other legally recognized justification.