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California Bill Aims to Prohibit Employers from Discriminating on Basis of Hairstyle

A new California bill aims to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based upon their hairstyles. SB 188, also known as the “CROWN Act” (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural hair), proposes amending the Education Code and Government Code to define “race or ethnicity” as “inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The bill expressly defines “protective hairstyles” as including but not limited to “braids, locks, and twists.”

The preamble to SB 188 notes that “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…. [H]air today remains a proxy for race.”  The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), further states that “hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination.”

The CROWN Act passed 37-0 in the Senate and has been referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

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About this Author

Anthony J Oncidi, Employment Attorney, Proskauer Rose Law Firm
Partner

Anthony J. Oncidi heads the Labor & Employment Law Group in the Los Angeles office. Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection....

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Cole Lewis Employment Attorney
Associate

Cole Lewis is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department.

Cole graduated from UCLA School of Law, where he worked as a law clerk for Public Counsel of Los Angeles and advocated for benefit recipients in the Department of Public Social Services. He has also previously worked as a summer associate in Proskauer’s Labor & Employment Department.

Prior to law school, Cole received his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Indiana University, where he graduated cum laude.

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