March 2, 2021

Volume XI, Number 61

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March 02, 2021

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March 01, 2021

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CROWN Act Ordinance: New Orleans Enacts Law to Prohibit Hairstyle Discrimination

On December 22, 2020, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell signed into law the CROWN Act (Calendar No. 33,184). The new law prohibits employment discrimination in the City of New Orleans based on hairstyles. The law is modeled after federal legislation introduced in January 2020—the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act)—designed to correct racial and cultural inequities by making hair discrimination illegal in the United States. In the meantime, cities have taken the lead passing similar legislation and protections. New Orleans joins Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, New York, New York, and Kansas City, Missouri, among other jurisdictions across the country that have also enacted legal protections to combat employment discrimination by addressing “deep inequities and barriers facing people of color and especially women of color in the workplace,” as the order stated, based on hairstyles.

Chapter 86 of the New Orleans Code of Ordinances, the city’s antidiscrimination ordinance, prohibits discrimination because of sex, disability, race, national origin, sexual orientation, age, and religion. The new hairstyle ordinance, an amendment to the antidiscrimination law, prohibits discrimination based on hairstyle as a subset of discrimination based on race or national origin.

The new law amends Chapter 86 by incorporating and defining the term “[p]rotected cultural hairstyle.” The ordinance defines a “[p]rotected cultural hairstyle” as “any hairstyle or hair texture commonly associated with a particular race or national origin, including locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, Afros, and any hairstyle in which hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled.” Under the law, New Orleans employers are prohibited from making employment decisions based on protected cultural hairstyles. Employers that take any such acts will be presumed to have unlawfully discriminated against an employee based upon the individual’s “race or national origin.”

The ordinance explains that the new law and its protections are necessary to ensure that all residents of New Orleans are afforded “equal protection under the law.” In so doing, the ordinance points to recent national studies and data suggesting that “in the workplace, Black women’s hair is heavily policed through grooming policies.” Relying on data from “The CROWN Research Study,” the ordinance explains that a majority of the Black female study participants acknowledged that they either felt a need to change or did in fact change their hairstyles to “‘fit in’” a workplace. It further notes that the study found that employers were over three times more likely to send Black females home because of their hairstyles, and that their hair was considered to be styled in an ‘“unprofessional’” manner. The city councilmember who introduced the ordinance indicated that Black women are 50 percent more likely to be subjected to discrimination in the workplace simply because of the style of their hair. The ordinance stated that such policies have long served as a means for “exclud[ing] Black individuals from both professional and social environments.”

With the enactment of this new law, the City of New Orleans has made it clear to employers that acts in the workplace based on an individual’s hairstyle constitutes employment discrimination and will no longer be tolerated. The ordinance became effective on December 22, 2020, with Mayor Cantrell’s signature.

Key Takeaways

New Orleans employers may want to take proactive steps to manage the effects of this new law on their workplaces. Some of those steps might include:

  • amending policies and job descriptions to minimize potential claims of discrimination based on an individual’s natural hair or hairstyle;

  • adding hairstyle awareness to antidiscrimination training;

  • training supervisors on how to address hairstyles in the workplace; and

  • reviewing interview and onboarding materials to comply with the new ordinance.

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© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 15
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About this Author

Andrew P. Burnside, Ogletree Deakins, Employment Law Matters Lawyer, Trade Secrets Attorney
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Drew Burnside represents employers in federal and state courts, as well as federal and state administrative agencies, in employment law matters. Drew is admitted in Louisiana and Texas.

Drew has received an “AV” Preeminent Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell and was on the editorial board of Tulane Maritime Law Journal at Tulane University. He is a chapter editor of and contributing author to The Family and Medical Leave Act treatise, published by BNA. Drew also was contributing author to The Developing Labor Law (3rd ed. BNA).

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Javier Jalice joined Ogletree Deakins as an Associate Attorney in the firm’s New Orleans, Louisiana office in 2018. Javier represents employers in all aspects of labor and employment law, and is licensed and admitted to practice before all federal and state courts in Louisiana.

Javier has represented both public and private employers nationally and regionally before federal and state administrative agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Department of Labor (“DOL”), in federal and state courts, and in arbitration hearings...

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