A Hairy Situation: New California Law Bans Workplace Grooming Standards that Apply to “Afros”

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(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) A new California law prohibiting discrimination against natural hair in workplaces and schools went into effect this week.

“[T]he 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 law states.

Dubbed the CROWN Act, it officially prevents employers, teachers and others with authority from discriminating against those with “afros, braids, twists, and locks,” as reported by The Hill.

“Acting in accordance with the constitutional values of fairness, equity, and opportunity for all,” the law—quite literally—brushes off policies that might prohibit other types of unconventional hairstyles for—among other things—safety concerns..

It claims that such regulations “are more likely to deter black applicants and burden or punish black employees than any other group.”

The bill, which took effect at the start of the year, was introduced last summer by state Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles Democrat who frequently wears micro braids.

Mitchell said it “protects the right of black Californians to choose to wear their hair in it natural form, without pressure to conform.”

Hair is a “symbol of who we are,” Mitchell added, noting that her personal decision to adopt her natural hairstyle was intended to make a “social and political statement to the outside world.”

The law itself claims that “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,” it reads.

That internal discrimination has affected how we understand “professionalism,” it continues.

“Professionalism was, and still is, closely linked to European features and mannerisms, which entails that those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional,” it states.