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California OKs Bill Protecting Hairstyles Associated With Race

June 27, 2019, 5:27 PM

California employers wouldn’t be allowed to bar twists, braids, dreadlocks, or other hairstyles historically associated with race under first-in-the-nation legislation bound for the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 188 adds to the Fair Employment & Housing Act and Education Codes definitions of race that are “inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”

The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) unanimously passed the state Assembly June 27. It returns to the Senate, which unanimously passed it in April, for concurrence on amendments.

California would become the first state to outlaw policies that punish people based on hairstyles associated with a race, said Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D), and it’s long overdue.

“First, there is a great need to educate the public about the unique qualities of black hair textures and how they relate to natural hairstyles and the experiences of black people. Second, it is time to challenge those commonly held myths and misconceptions about what determines professional hair in the workplace, in schools, in the media, and even in the military,” Kamlager-Dove said on the Assembly floor.

Under S.B. 188, by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D), employers could set race-neutral grooming rules, such as requiring workers to secure their hair for hygienic reasons or keep their hair neat and clean.

The bill’s backed by the CROWN Coalition, which includes Unilever PLC’s Dove Brand and the groups Color for Change, National Urban League, and Western Center on Law and Poverty.

California would join New York City and Chicago in protecting natural hairstyles closely associated with racial, ethnic, or cultural identities.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joyce E. Cutler in San Francisco at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at; Martha Mueller Neff at