It’s been more than 18 months since a New Jersey high school wrestler was forced to choose between competing in his wrestling match and cutting off his dreadlocks. Since that day, California, New York and now New Jersey have enacted legislation to ban discrimination based on hair type and style. This law does not just pertain to high school wrestling matches; it extends to employment law in New Jersey.

What is the law?

The law that was signed into place was known as the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act, or CROWN Act. At its core, the CROWN act expanded upon the current laws regarding racial discrimination to include traits that are typically associated with a given race, including hair type, hair texture and protective hairstyles.

Legislators enacted the law in order to protect citizens from direct discrimination and disparate impact in schools, the workplace and other public facilities. Racial discrimination laws were already in place, but the CROWN Act expounds on them greatly.

Why is there a need?

The story of the high school wrestler who was forced to cut his hair to compete isn’t the only instance that sparked the need for the CROWN Act. Just two years before, twin sisters at a Massachusetts charter school were given detention for wearing their hair in braids. An 11-year-old was removed from her Catholic school classroom in 2018 for having braids in her hair.

While the stories involving students gained national media attention, there have long been claims of discrimination based on hair in the workplace. New laws such as the CROWN Act seek to remedy that problem.

What does it all mean?

The implementation of the CROWN Act means that employers need to be even more up to date on civil rights in the workplace. It also means that employees are becoming more protected from the injustice of discrimination in the workplace.

An individual believes that he or she has been the victim of discrimination in the workplace may want to contact an attorney who is familiar with employment law. This attorney may review details of the discrimination claims, company policies, other complaints and state laws that pertain to the claim. After thorough review, the attorney may better advise their client about how to proceed with their discrimination suit.