There is a growing movement across the country to right a long-standing wrongful practice of discriminating against individuals on the basis of hairstyles historically associated with race.
On Monday, March 1, 2021, Connecticut joined this movement and became the eighth state in the nation to pass the CROWN Act, an acronym for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” The Act was overwhelmingly supported and affirmatively voted on by Connecticut's House and Senate. (* Note – CT Governor Ned Lamont, as of this writing, has not officially signed the bill into law but has expressed that he will do so imminently).
Background: Connecticut has enacted this new Act by clarifying the definitions of race and protective hairstyles in the text of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-51.
Race is now defined as “inclusive of ethnic traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The definition of protective hairstyles states that it “includes, but is not limited to, wigs, headwraps and hairstyles such as individual braids, cornrows, locs, twists, Bantu knots, afros and afro puffs.”
A summary of the Bill provided by the legislature states:
This bill makes it an illegal practice to (1) discriminate based on a person's hair texture and protective hairstyle in employment, public accommodations, housing, credit practices, union membership, and state agency practices or (2) deprive any person of any rights secured or protected by the Connecticut Constitution or the United States Constitution. It does so by specifying that the term “race” includes ethnic traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles.
In passing the new law, Connecticut legislators were clear with their intent in ending the practice of hair discrimination. As Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney stated, “discrimination occurs in many forms, in many ways. Some of the workplace discrimination on hairstyles is sometimes subtle and not-so-subtle… This will call that out, making it illegal.”
Conclusion: This legislation highlights the importance for employers to update and maintain clear policies and procedures promoting anti-discrimination of all forms. Specifically, employers should ensure that any workplace policies, including those that address dress codes and appearance requirements, are up to date and comply with the law. Employers should also ensure these policies and procedures are widely available and communicated to all employees.
Any questions concerning any of the provisions of this new Act, or compliance therewith, can be directed to any attorney at our firm. Rose Kallor, LLP provides a full range of labor and employment counseling to private and public-sector employers.