NOTEBOOK: Law For Locks

NOTEBOOK: Law For Locks

New Massachusetts law prohibits employee discrimination based on natural hairstyle.

September 2, 2022

In July, Massachusetts joined 17 other states in prohibiting racial discrimination based on an individual’s natural hairstyle. Passed unanimously by state legislators,The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act -- otherwise known as the “Crown Act” -- bans discrimination based upon natural and protective hairstyles in workplaces, school districts, and in public accommodations such as hotels, stores, and restaurants. The Crown Act also prohibits discrimination based upon natural and protective hairstyles in housing and lending.

Specifically, the Crown Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person's hair texture or hairstyles which include, but are not limited to, braids, lock twists, and Bantu knots.

Employers should be aware that employees who establish workplace discrimination based upon their natural and protective hairstyles may be entitled to recover economic and compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees, according to a recent article authored by Freeman, Mathis & Gary attorneys Jennifer Markowski, R. Victoria Fuller, and Matthew Mattie. (Read the entire article here: https://bit.ly/3wQMOnz). Employers should immediately update their handbooks and ensure that supervisors are aware of this important amendment to the Fair Employment Practice Act.

A similar bill was passed by the United States House of Representatives earlier this year but has yet to be decided on by the US Senate, and is pending in Alaska.

States that have already adopted the Crown Act include:

  • California
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Nebraska
  • Oregon
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Tennessee
  • US Virgin Islands