Hair Discrimination

What is the California Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act?

The CROWN Act expands state law protections for employees and students against hair-based discrimination in California workplaces and schools. The law, which became effective on January 1, 2020, clarifies that the prohibitions against race discrimination in the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the California Education Code include traits that are historically associated with race, such as hair texture and natural, protective hairstyles.

CROWN explains that this change is required because many grooming codes often work to enforce Eurocentric ideas of professionalism and negatively impact people of color, especially Black people.

What are your rights under the CROWN Act?

Employees are allowed to wear their natural hairstyles, such as locks, twists, and braids, to work without fear of repercussion. These hairstyles are considered to be protected under the law.

Which employers are covered by this law?

Any employer, public or private, that employs 5 or more employees, EXCEPT religious non-profit organizations.

What are these employers prohibited from doing?

Covered employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of hair texture or “protective” hairstyles such as locks, twists and braids that have historical associations with race. Examples of employer practices that would generally be unlawful are:

    • An employer who has a policy that requires “clean and tidy hair” but only disciplines employees with braids, twists, or locks.
    • A company that fires someone because they wear their hair in braids, or refuses to promote people with locks.
    • A grooming policy requiring employees to alter the state of their hair to conform with the company’s appearance standards, including having to straighten or relax hair.

Employers must also stop and prevent hair-based harassment of employees by supervisors, co-workers, customers, and other third parties. This includes repeated inappropriate jokes or offensive language, threats, slurs, and other such acts.

What can you do if you have faced employment discrimination because of your hair?

You can file a complaint with the Civil Rights Department (CRD) within 3 years of the incident. Details for the complaint process can be found here. The CRD process can result in you receiving lost pay or wages, a change in the company’s policy, and other actions to correct the discrimination.

You can also make an appointment to consult with a lawyer or legal counselor at Legal Aid at Work.  You can call 415-864-8848 or visit our clinics and helplines page for more information:

Remember to keep records of the discrimination, which can include saving any documents, texts, emails, or other written communications in a secure location (for example, emailing them to yourself), and taking notes of who, what, where, when, and how during or shortly after events or conversations happen.

Does the CROWN Act only apply to the workplace?

No, schools are also prohibited from disrupting a child’s education based on their hairstyle.