On July 3rd, 2019, California Governor Newsom signed SB-188, The “CROWN Act” (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), intended to protect students and employees who wear their hair in natural styles. California was the first state to pass such a law, followed closely by New York. The CROWN Act amends California’s Education Code and Fair Employment and Housing Act to address unfair grooming policies having a disparate impact on black men and women by stating that existing definitions of race “also include traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The bill’s author and supporters state that it is intended to ensure the protection of hairstyles — including afros, braids, twists and locks — from those employers who enforce “race neutral” grooming policies that disproportionately affect black individuals.
Employers can still maintain policies that require the securing of hair for health and safety reasons. However, employer dress and grooming policies and their enforcement will need to be reviewed in light of this new law, which appears to have immediate effect. A copy of the law as amended by SB-188 can be found here.