By: Michelle Patrick, Esq.
New Jersey has joined the ranks of a handful of states to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle. In December 2018 video surfaced from South Jersey of a trainer cutting off an African-American high-school wrestler’s dreadlocks. We learned that the teenager was forced to choose between cutting off his dreadlocks or forfeiting his match. One year later to the day, December 19, 2019, the “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act” (“CROWN Act”) was signed into law. The CROWN Act amends New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) to clarify that race discrimination includes discrimination based on “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.” The Act specifically refers to “braids, locks and twists.”
While currently only California, New York and New Jersey prohibit discrimination based on hair, the CROWN ACT is under consideration in Pennsylvania and a number of other states.