On March 4, 2021, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed into law House Bill No. 6515, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnic hairstyles historically associated with race. Known as the CROWN Act (which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), the law amends Connecticut’s anti-discrimination law to define race as “inclusive of ethic traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” Under the new law, "protective hairstyles" include "wigs, headwraps and hairstyles, such as individual braids, cornrows, locs, twists, Bantu knots, afros and afro puffs."
In passing this legislation, Connecticut has joined a growing number of states that prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on natural or ethnic hairstyles and texture. In 2019, California was the first state to pass a law called the CROWN Act. Since then, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Washington have passed versions of the CROWN Act, and legislation has been introduced in many other states and at the federal level.
Take-Aways for Employers
In light of this legislative trend, employers should monitor legal developments relating to the CROWN Act in all geographies where they have employees. Given the growing awareness that certain hairstyles and texture are closely associated with race, employers should proactively review their anti-discrimination, dress code and grooming policies to ensure that they are updated to avoid claims of discrimination. Employers also should review their hiring and employment practices and train managers and supervisors to bring awareness to the legal issues around hair and other traits historically associated with race.
If you’d like to discuss the CROWN Act or your obligations under Connecticut law, please contact Natasha Lipcan at 203-820-6754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natasha Lipcan (New York team) is an employment law attorney with more than 20 years of experience representing private employers in a broad range of employee-related matters. She handles a wide range of employment issues, including employment law compliance, organizational change, diversity and inclusion, employment-related agreements, arbitrations and litigations, wage and hour, workplace training and policies, and recruiting, hiring, managing and terminating employees.