Photo by Erik Umphery
Photo by Erik Umphery

In July 2016, an ex-manager at a posh Manhattan hair salon filed a complaint with New York City’s Human Rights Commission, alleging that while working at the salon, he’d been asked to implement a hair policy that seemed aimed at black employees. Three additional complaints were filed in the next two years against the same employer, including one in which a stylist and a co-owner were said to have disparaged black workers’ dreadlocks and box braids as not befitting the salon’s luxe vibe.

The ensuing investigation led to groundbreaking legal guidelines banning grooming policies that target hairstyles associated with black people. But as pioneering as these guidelines were, they applied only to New York City.

Enter California state senator Holly Mitchell, who in January 2019 introduced the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act, which was signed into law last summer. It took effect January 1—the first state law to ban discrimination based on natural hair or styles like locs, braids, and twists in workplaces and public schools.

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