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Bryan E. Kuhn
Counselor at Law, P.C.
Business & Employment Law Attorney

Can you restrict employees’ hairstyles?

As an employer, you may want your employees to adhere to a certain dress code. For years, some considered that this permits them to dictate how workers wore their hair. New legislation means you need to be very careful.

New legislation went into effect in Colorado last September related to hair. The “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2020,” more commonly known as the Crown Act, applies to employment as well as areas such as housing and education. It clarifies that discriminating against someone on the grounds of their hair could be considered racial discrimination.

Does the CROWN Act apply to all hairstyles?

No, it does not. It specifically applies to hair related to race. So you can still tell the aging Sex Pistols wannabe on your team that their bright orange spiked hair is not appropriate for their role in your company.

The law celebrates that people of different racial origins have different hair textures and hair types. It acknowledges that people from distinct races and cultures wear their hair differently from each other. Some wear their hair straight and do it up in a bun or plaits when they want to protect it from the weather. Others have hair that naturally grows out into an Afro. To protect it, they put it into a tight braid or Bantu knots.

If you are unsure how to put guidance on hairstyles into your employee manual, or have doubts about what you can and cannot say to an employee whose hairstyle does not fit with the company image, seek legal advice. Getting it wrong could lead to charges of racial discrimination.

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