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CROWN Act Signed into Law

March 11, 2021

Yesterday, Connecticut’s Governor, Ned Lamont, signed into law the CROWN Act, also known as “An Act Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” With this action, Connecticut joins a growing list of states, including New York and New Jersey, making it illegal in certain situations to discriminate against individuals based on hair texture or protective hairstyles.  The new law bans discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and housing, as well as discrimination in credit practices, union membership, and with state agency practices.  The new bill protects people of color from discriminatory practices based upon their hair. It is not designed to protect Caucasian millennials who show up to work one day with purple hair!

Upon its signing, the CROWN Act went into immediate effect, so employers must take notice today. The practical impact of the legislation is to expand the legal definition of the word “race” to now include the concept of ethnic traits which are “historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The bill protects various hairstyles including “wigs, headwraps and hairstyles such as individual braids, cornrows, locs, twists, Bantu knots, afros and afro puffs.”

What does this law mean for Connecticut employers? 

We see the greatest impact of this legislation on our service sector clients, such as restaurants, banks, and various retail establishments, where staff appearance can be an important part of corporate image. We see a more limited impact on our general corporate and professional services clients as less emphasis is placed on a standardized personal appearance.  Of course, there remain corporate cultures that still implicitly like a certain “look” for their employees; if that is you, this law could be a problem for your company.   Regardless of where you may fit on this spectrum, all Connecticut employers need to be very careful to familiarize themselves with this new law so as to not run afoul of it when making hiring and employment decisions.

If you have any questions on how the CROWN Act impacts your business or hiring practices, Brody and Associates can assist. Brody and Associates regularly advises its clients on all labor management issues and provides various related training programs.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or at 203.454.0560.