Late in 2020, a Colorado law that is designed to protect people of color from race-based hair discrimination went into effect.
Called the “CROWN Act,” the law redefines racial discrimination to include biases based on someone’s “hairtexture, hairtype or a protective hairstyle that is commonly or historically associated with race.”
Why did the CROWN Act come into being?
Colorado is actually the fourth state (behind California, New Jersey and New York) to ban hair-based discrimination. This is in response to growing pressure for reforms to put people of color on a more equal footing in schools and jobs.
Historically, Black people have long worn their hair in Afros, locs, twists, braids, cornrows and Bantu knots for both practical and cultural reasons. The styles are comfortable and don’t damage their natural hair follicles.
In many schools and workplaces, however, people of color have been forced to adhere to Caucasian standards of beauty. Those with Afros and tight curls were often told that they needed to straighten their hair in order to look neat or “professional,” and braids, locs and other hairstyles were forbidden outright.
This obliged many people of color to endure caustic chemical applications and incur a great deal of expense for hair treatments over the years. Black women, in particular, bore the brunt of the discrimination. Some were sent home from their jobs because of hair that didn’t mean some arbitrary professional standard. This occurred at a rate 1.5 times higher than incidents involving other employees.
What can you do if you’ve faced workplace hair discrimination?
By now, employers should all be aware of the changes in the law — but that doesn’t mean that they’ll automatically adhere to the new rules. If you’ve been discriminated against because of your natural hair, it may be time to find out more about your legal rights and how to fight back.