Under the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (or CROWN) Act, California law now prohibits employers and educators from discriminating against individuals based on their hairstyles. The bill, which was sponsored by State Senator Holly Mitchell, states: “The history of our nation is riddled with laws and societal norms that equated “blackness,” and the associated physical traits, for example, dark skin, kinky and curly hair to a badge of inferiority, sometimes subject to separate and unequal treatment.”

In other words, prejudice against certain physical characteristics and hairstyles have been lingering in the workplace and educational systems across the nation. The new law aims to eliminate such societal norms that prevented African Americans from equal consideration or treatment by educators and employers, based on their hairstyle or other aspects of their appearance. The legislature wrote, “ Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group.”

“Acting in accordance with the constitutional values of fairness, equity, and opportunity for all, the Legislature recognizes that continuing to enforce a Eurocentric image of professionalism through purportedly race-neutral grooming policies that disparately impact Black individuals and exclude them from some workplaces is in direct opposition to equity and opportunity for all.”

The Crown Act was officially signed into law by California’s Governor on July 3, 2019.  Accordingly, starting on January 1, 2020, California law will officially protect hairstyles with afros, braids, twists, and locks.

This article is authored by the Labor & Employment Department of SBEMP LLP, lead by Vee Sotelo. Mrs. Sotelo represents employers in a wide array of labor and employment related matters. She regularly advises and represents clients in connection with day to day human resource issues, employment policies, regulatory compliance, class action defense, wage and hour law, wrongful termination and sexual harassment matters.  Mrs. Sotelo is a frequent speaker and presenter at employment law training seminars and sexual harassment seminars.  Although Mrs. Sotelo is based in the Palm Springs office of SBEMP, she regularly represents clients throughout California. To read more about Vee Sotelo and the other attorneys in the Labor & Employment Department, please click one of the links below.

Employment & Labor Law Attorneys of SBEMP

SBEMP’S Labor and Employment Department is comprised of attorneys with decades of experience in a broad range of labor and employment matters from day-to-day counseling to labor negotiations and litigation. Our team is prepared to guide our clients through the complex myriad of employment laws affecting California employers. We assist our clients with day-to-day personnel management issues, such as drafting employment policies, managing leaves of absence, identifying potential problems in hiring and firing practices, and ensuring wage and hour compliance. Our attorneys are also experienced litigators who regularly represent clients in all types of employment litigation, including defending wage and hour class actions as well as lawsuits alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Additionally, we regularly represent clients in administrative proceedings, such as Labor Commissioner claims, CalOSHA citations, DFEH and EEOC investigations, and DLSE complaints. Our labor and employment practice is also prepared to assist clients with labor negotiations and disputes. Our labor attorneys are experienced in negotiating labor agreements as well as representing clients before the NLRB.

DISCLAIMER: This newsletter does not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by reading it. This newsletter may be considered ATTORNEY ADVERTISING in some states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained within this newsletter. Before acting or relying upon any information within this newsletter, seek the advice of an attorney.

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