The history of hair-type discrimination in American workplaces reveals a deeply rooted issue of systemic bias and prejudice. Individuals with natural hair textures, such as afros, braids, twists, and locs, have faced discrimination and unfair treatment for many years.
Eurocentric beauty standards have historically been prioritized, leading to policies and practices that have targeted and marginalized people with non-European hair types. These discriminatory practices have frequently resulted in job opportunities being denied, unequal treatment, and even termination based solely on a person’s natural hair. This also creates a bad reputation for the company when it comes to workplace inclusiveness.
However, there has been a growing movement in recent years to challenge and address this discrimination. With the passage of time, more and more states are enacting legislation to prohibit hair-based discrimination in the workplace. And this time, it’s the state of Texas making this positive move.
Texas locs, box braids, and ‘fros can rejoice: Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, signed the CROWN Act into law over Memorial Day weekend. In the state of Texas, the legislation prohibits racial discrimination based on hair color at work, as well as in schools and housing. The law takes effect on September 1, 2023.
The CROWN Act became law in California for the first time in July 2019. Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington were among the states to follow suit. Some municipalities, such as Miami Beach, Florida, and Philadelphia, have enacted their own anti-discrimination legislation.
In the past, skin tone used to be included in the legal definitions of race but excluded hair texture and protective hairstyles “closely associated with race,” such as braids, locs, and twists, according to law firm Littler Mendelson. The CROWN Act addresses this issue.
Untangling the influence of bias based on hair types
While the CROWN legislation gains traction across the country, data from LinkedIn and Dove indicates that 66% of Black women in the United States change their hair for job interviews. More specifically, 40% straighten their hair. According to LinkedIn and Dove, one in every four Black women did not get a job because of their hair; on the job, Black women are twice as likely to face harassment and discrimination because of coily and textured hair.
What does this mean for businesses? According to Littler, employers should review their workplace policies in order to adhere to the provisions of the CROWN Act. Because even if a policy prohibits employees of all races from wearing dreadlocks, a worker can demonstrate that the workplace rule disproportionately affects Black employees, proving that their employer is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.