California Poised to Become First US State to Ban Natural Hair Discrimination

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
July 1, 2019 Updated: July 1, 2019

A bill to ban the discrimination of natural hairstyles was passed in California last week, making it the first state in the United States poised to make the change.

In a unanimous vote, the new bill was passed 69 to 0 by California’s state assembly on June 27, reported ABC News.

It came two months after the California Senate’s approval of an act led by State Sen. Holly Mitchell, which bans discrimination against people with natural hairstyles in the workplace—the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair).

California’s SB-188 discrimination law will now be updated to reflect the prohibition of hair-based discrimination.

Under amendments to the Fair Housing and Employment Code, employees will be protected against discrimination of “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”

The bill states that black applicants are less likely to apply to workplaces that have dress codes and grooming policies that “prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks.”

These rules are “more likely to deter black applicants and burden or punish black employees than any other group,” it states.

News of the bill’s approval was posted on Twitter by Mitchell, who announced on her account that it was making its way to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, to be officially signed into law.

“In a society in which hair has historically been one of many determining factors of a person’s race, and whether they were a second-class citizen, hair today remains a proxy for race,” the bill says.

“Therefore, hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination.”

Assembly member Sydney Kamlager-Dove told the assembly floor on June 27 she had spent much of her professional life altering her natural hair to “conform to Eurocentric standards.”

“I did it to make others feel comfortable, and to avoid comments and even harassment,” she said.

“Last year, when I wore braids on the last day of the legislative session, women thanked me afterwards. They said that I liberated them to wear braids in their own hair, something they didn’t think they should do in a setting like the legislature,” Kamlager-Dove continued.

“My response is that there is beauty and professionalism in black hair.”

Mitchell, who has styled her hair naturally for 20 years, said in a speech in April it was “disheartening” to see mainly images of black women with “natural hair or wearing natural braids or twists,” when she searched for “unprofessional hairstyles” on Google.

She told The New York Times in an interview on June 28 that she had been approached by many who said they had faced discrimination based on the appearance of their natural hair.



“I have heard from parents whose children have been sent home from school because they were told their hair was unruly,” she said.

“Or even more comically from my perspective, that their hair was a distraction to other children. Other children are distracted, so you have to leave.”

Mitchell explained to the outlet that the bill aims to prohibit those in authority from implementing grooming policies which ultimately impact people of color.

The proposal came after black Alabama woman, Chastity Jones, claimed to have had a job offer rescinded for refusing to cut her dreadlocks, and asked the Supreme Court to hear her case.

Jones was allegedly told by an HR manager from the company that dreadlocks “tend to get messy” and so violated its grooming policy, reported Vox.

“This bill has truly struck a deeply personal chord with people because there is something so deeply personally offensive when you are told that your hair, in its natural state, is not acceptable in the workplace,” Mitchell told The New York Times.

In February, a similar anti-discrimination policy was passed in New York City, which protects “natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities” under its Human Rights Law.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.