The California CROWN Act and Discrimination in the Workplace

California Crown Act

Workplace policies prohibiting natural Black hairstyles like braids, locs, twists, and afros persist across many industries. For those impacted, these bans on ethnic identity can carry deep personal consequences.

Because these policies often provoke discrimination among African Americans, California legislators passed the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act in 2019 (CROWN Act), becoming the first state to ban race-based hair discrimination.

At TONG LAW, we stand up for an employee’s civil rights and believe no person should harass, punish, or deny a worker opportunities because of how they wear their natural hair.
As employment law attorneys who exclusively represent employees in discrimination cases, we’re here to advise you on your rights under the CROWN Act and help you stand up against unlawful workplace discrimination.

CROWN Act Addresses Harmful Hair Bias

For African-American workers, hair has historically been a controversial issue. Throughout history, those in positions of authority have utilized a Black person’s natural hair texture and style as a basis for barring them from professional opportunities.

Institutions have also attempted to regulate Black hair or enforce Eurocentric grooming standards in work settings by deeming ethnic hairstyles “unprofessional.” Even presently, natural Black hairstyles remain a proxy for race-based discrimination in the labor force, leading to marginalization and disenfranchisement.

The motivation for the CROWN Act is rooted in accounts of those whose supervisor claimed their braided hairstyles violated company policy. Or a waiter who arrived at work to discover he had been removed from the schedule due to their dreadlocks.

California listened, and now the CROWN Act identifies this form of discrimination and creates legal remedies for those impacted.

Banning Bias Against Natural Hair

At its core, the CROWN Act recognizes that prohibitions against natural hair in the workplace are fundamentally prejudiced.

Specifically, the CROWN Act:

  • Prohibits bans on natural hairstyles commonly associated with African Americans, like afros, braids, twists, and locks.
  • Forbids grooming policies prohibiting natural hair, even when coded in racially neutral language.
  • Amends California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act to defend against hair discrimination

The CROWN Act is a direct acknowledgment that demands to change Black hair carries certain undertones of supremacy. By protecting a Black person’s right to work and be free from cultural stigmas, California’s CROWN statues empower identity and equity.

Enforcing the CROWN Act in California Workplaces

After nearly five years of the California CROWN Act’s existence, Californians are curious about how CROWN protects their rights against hair discrimination.

If you face bias based on natural ethnic hairstyles in school or the workplace, you now have express legal options available to pursue.

First, you may file an official complaint with the California Civil Rights Department to launch an investigation against the employer.

Additionally, our California discrimination lawyers can evaluate bases for potential litigation against the offending party in relation to discrimination statutes.

Thanks to the CROWN Act, California employers now face greater liability when discriminating against natural hairstyles associated with race. School boards are also accountable.

With legal force from the Civil Rights Department behind CROWN litigation, don’t stay silent when you face injustice because of your hair.

What’s Next for the CROWN Act Movement?

While California made history by passing the nation’s first CROWN Act protecting natural hair, the fight continues for federal protections and state CROWN laws across the country.

As of late 2023, twenty-two states have passed some form of the CROWN Act. The CROWN Coalition also continues advocating for Congress to pass federal legislation prohibiting natural hair discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. TONG LAW remains committed to defending natural hair rights. We stand ready to represent clients who face injustice and push for policy changes. Your voice and story matter in inspiring equity and advancing freedoms for future generations to show up to work and school as themselves.

Fight Back Against Hair Discrimination With TONG LAW By Your Side

Our employment law practice advocates for employees facing hair discrimination in California. We handle CROWN Act lawsuits and work to resolve related disputes on behalf of individuals experiencing bias against natural hairstyles in the workplace.

With unrelenting passion, our attorneys investigate claims, quantify damages, and vigorously defend your civil rights whenever needed.

We understand California’s employment discrimination laws inside out and have helped CROWN clients hold violators accountable.

If you face injustice because of your natural hair, don’t stay silent or hope the behavior will go away. Contact us today to schedule a case evaluation.

Author Bio

Vincent Tong

Vincent Tong is the CEO and Managing Partner of TONG LAW, a business and employment law firm located in Oakland, CA. Vincent is a fierce advocate for employees facing discrimination and wrongful termination. With several successful jury trial victories and favorable settlements, he has earned a strong reputation for delivering exceptional results for his clients.

In addition, Vincent provides invaluable counsel to businesses, guiding them on critical matters such as formation and governance, regulatory compliance, and protection of intellectual property assets. His depth of experience allows him to anticipate risks, devise strategies to avoid legal pitfalls, and empower clients to pursue their goals confidently.

Vincent currently serves as the 2021 President of the Board of Directors for the Alameda County Bar Association and sits on the Executive Board for the California Employment Lawyers Association. Recognized for outstanding skills and client dedication, he has consecutively earned the Super Lawyers’ Rising Star honor since 2015, reserved for the top 2.5% of attorneys. He also received the Distinguished Service Award for New Attorney from the Alameda County Bar Association in 2016. He is licensed to practice before all California state courts and the United States District Court for the Northern and Central Districts of California.

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