August 9, 2022

Volume XII, Number 221

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August 08, 2022

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Louisiana Joins Growing List of States Prohibiting Hairstyle Discrimination

On June 21, 2022, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law legislation prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of hairstyles or textures historically associated with race. The CROWN Act (House Bill No. 1083 / Public Act No. 529) (“CROWN” stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”) amends the definition of intentional discrimination in employment under Louisiana law to include any discriminatory practices with respect to any individual’s “compensation, or terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” because of “natural, protective, or cultural hairstyle.” The act adds these characteristics as a subset of discrimination based on race or national origin. “Natural, protective, or cultural hairstyle” is defined to include “afros, dreadlocks, twists, locs, braids, cornrow braids, Bantu knots, curls, and hair styled to protect hair texture or for cultural significance.” The CROWN Act is effective August 1, 2022.

The CROWN Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against individuals on the basis of ethnic traits, such as protective hairstyles (i.e., hairstyle, color, or manner of wearing hair that minimizes manipulation and/or damage of natural hair), in employment, public schools, public accommodations, and housing opportunities. For private employers, the CROWN Act amends the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law and defines the terms “natural, protective, or cultural hairstyle” to include “afros, dreadlocks, twists, locs, braids, cornrow braids, Bantu knots, curls, and hair styled to protect hair texture or for cultural significance.” The act is intended to prohibit discrimination against individuals with hairstyles historically associated with race. However, the law includes any “cultural hairstyle,” which could include hairstyles that are not necessarily associated with a specific race.

The new state law does not address potential conflicts between an applicant’s or employee’s protected hairstyle and an employer’s bona fide safety rules or measures. For example, an employee required to wear safety headgear might be precluded from safely doing so by the employee’s hairstyle, if the hairstyle prevents the headgear from fitting properly.

In the last several years, similar legislation has been enacted in various states and cities, gaining national attention. California first passed its CROWN Act in 2019, which was followed by New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, WashingtonMarylandConnecticutOregon, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and more than a dozen cities. This year, Louisiana joins Tennessee and Maine in adding hairstyles and hair textures to the roster of characteristics protected under antidiscrimination laws.

Previously, on December 22, 2020, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell signed into law the CROWN Act (Calendar No. 33,184), which prohibits employment discrimination in the city of New Orleans based on hairstyles.

Notably, on March 18, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 2116) that would make hairstyle discrimination a violation of federal law. A companion bill (S. 888) has been introduced in the U.S. Senate but has not passed to date.

Next Steps for Louisiana Employers

Louisiana employers may want to consider taking proactive steps to manage the requirements of this new law in their workplaces. Some of those steps might include:

  • reviewing employee handbooks, antidiscrimination policies, and dress codes or grooming policies for compliance with the CROWN Act;

  • reviewing onboarding and interview documents to comply with the new law;

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

  • providing education and training on the new law for recruiters, managers, and supervisors.

The new state law does not take effect until August 1, 2022, so there is ample time for Louisiana employers to prepare for compliance with the CROWN Act.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 181
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About this Author

Andrew P. Burnside, Ogletree Deakins, Employment Law Matters Lawyer, Trade Secrets Attorney
Shareholder

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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Ellen Rains, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, New Orleans, Labor and Employment Law Attorney
Associate

Ellen’s practice focuses on representing employers in a variety of employment law matters. A skilled litigator, Ellen devotes a substantial amount of her practice to employment litigation. She defends employers in administrative proceedings before the EEOC and other government agencies, and in litigation at the state and federal court level with respect to employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims, as well as restrictive covenant, wage and hour, and other contract- and tort-based actions. Ellen Rains is a member of the employment law, higher education...

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Sara Grace Sirera Employment Law Disputes Ogletree Deakins New Orleans
Associate

Sara Grace earned her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Louisiana State University. Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Sara Grace represented corporations and insurance companies in various areas of litigation including professional liability disputes, employment litigation, and contract disputes. Sara Grace is admitted to practice law in all Louisiana state and federal courts.

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