Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair

The Massachusetts Crown Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” is a law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination. The purpose of the Crown Act is to prohibit the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture, natural or protective hairstyles including braids, dreadlocks, twists or bantu knots. On July 26, 2022, Massachusetts became the 18th state to prohibit race-based hair texture discrimination when the Crown Act was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker. The Crown Act will take effect 90 days after being signed into law, on October 24, 2022.

Concerning workplace discrimination, the Massachusetts law makes it clear that the coverage of state antidiscrimination prohibitions in the workplace apply where there has been discrimination against employees because of their hairstyles. The Act expressly prohibits workplace discrimination against employees because of their hairstyles “including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, hair length… [and ‘protective styles’ such as] braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots, hair coverings and other formations.” The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has been given the task of adopting the promulgating rules, regulations, policies and recommendations relating to the obligations employers have under the Act.

The official campaign of The Crown Act is led by the Crown Coalition, founded by Dove, National Urban League, Color of Change and Western Center on Law & Poverty, and aims to elevate the public narrative around the issue of race-based hair discrimination in an effort to end hair bias.

The inaugural Crown Act in California expanded the definition of race in the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Code to ensure protection in workplaces and in K-12 public and charter schools. First introduced in California in January 2019 and signed into law on July 3, 2019, the Crown Act has since gained momentum and support from federal and state legislators to end racially based hair discrimination across the country.

Though not all prohibitions have come in the form of the Crown Act, currently 18 states have statutory language that prohibits discrimination based on hair texture. These states include California, New York (amended the New York Human Rights law), New Jersey, Virginia (passed the Virginia Human Rights Act), Colorado, Washington (passed an amendment to the Washington State Law Against Discrimination), Maryland (Crown Act passed without governor’s signature), Connecticut, New Mexico, Delaware, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Illinois (passed Simmons Law), Maine, Tennessee (passed the Crown Act, applies only to workplace discrimination), Louisiana, and most recently, Massachusetts. A number of additional states are considering similar legislation.

At the federal level, a resolution—H.R. 2116, also titled the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (Crown Act)—passed the U.S. House of Representatives on March 18, 2022, with a vote of 235 to 189. All House Democrats, joined by 14 Republicans, voted in favor of the measure. The bill now sits with the U.S. Senate after U.S. Senator Cory Booker introduced the bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. The Biden administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy voicing support for the federal bill, stating that the scope of the bill would “require that discrimination on this basis be treated as if it were race or national origin discrimination under Titles VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, and certain other Federal civil rights laws … The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to enact this legislation and ensure that it is effectively implemented.” H.R. 2116 SAP (

A Statement of Administration Policy presents the policy perspective advancing the legislation. In pertinent part, the Policy rationale states:

No person should be denied the ability to obtain a job, succeed in school or the workplace, secure housing, or otherwise exercise their rights based on a hair texture or hair style. Over the course of our Nation’s history, society has used hair texture and hairstyle – along with race, national origin and skin color – to discriminate against individuals. Pernicious forms of systemic racism persist when dress and grooming codes, for example, prohibit hair texture or hairstyle that is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin. Such discrimination has imposed significant economic costs, learning disruption, and denial of economic opportunities for people of color.

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