Persons of color know this scenario all too well: They adopt an ethnic hairstyle only to be told by their employer in Delaware that they must change their hair or risk losing their jobs. However, Delaware is one of 12 states that has enacted the CROWN Act, an amendment to the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
What the CROWN Act does
Although there is no federal law in place prohibiting discrimination based on the hairstyle, the CROWN Act addresses racial discrimination based on the hairstyle, not only in the workplace but also in places like schools. One of the ways that the CROWN Act impacts employers is a language that says employees must be cleanly groomed. The act indicates that employers must state what that phrase means explicitly and how employees should comply with that with regard to hairstyles, especially natural hairstyles that some people may consider unkempt so that these hairstyles don’t lead to wrongful termination. Policies should also detail how employees can comply with all types of hairstyles, especially ethnic hairstyles.
What employers should do is review their policies and practices for language and practices that may affect African Americans and other minorities. Particular attention should be paid to policies that ban twists, cornrows or locks in the workplace, and employers should not refuse to hire someone with those particular hairstyles.
Still, facing discrimination?
Despite the CROWN Act, you may still face workplace discrimination if an employer disapproves of your hairstyle. Examples include pressuring you to adopt a Eurocentric hairstyle or being told that you won’t get a promotion or even a job because of your hair.
Not only can adults face discrimination because of their chosen ethnic hairstyle, but so can children. Enforcing the CROWN Act helps all institutions avoid discrimination. Whatever your age, you can pursue grievances against your employer thanks to the CROWN Act.