New California bill seeks to end discrimination against natural hairstyles
A recently passed bill SB 188, nicknamed the “Crown Act,” will make it illegal to discriminate against or enforce policies about natural hairstyles in the workplace, schools or housing.
Such grooming rules overwhelmingly affect people of color despite being “race-neutral.” Natural hairstyles typically refer to braids, dreadlocks and twists. Anti-discrimination laws previously protected afro hairstyles, but other common styles were not. Proponents of the bill say that it will help preserve cultural identity.
Cases regarding natural hairstyle discrimination are currently being decided. Anecdotal evidence shows how discrimination against natural hairstyles still persists. One woman claimed that her friend, who was a realtor, had trouble selling properties … until she changed her hairstyle and started straightening her hair. After her style changed, her sales increased dramatically.
Senator Holly J. Mitchell introduced SB 188. Before the Senate vote she said:
“Many Black employees, including your staff members, will tell you if given a chance that the struggle to maintain what society has deemed a ‘professional image’ while protecting the health and integrity of their hair remains a defining and paradoxical struggle in their work experience, not usually shared by their non-Black peers,” Mitchell continued, “Any law that sanctions a job description that immediately excludes me from a position, not because of my capabilities or experience but because of my hair, is long overdue for reform.”