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13 June 20234 minute read

The CROWN Act becomes law in Texas

On May 28, 2023, following bipartisan passage in the Texas legislature, Texas joined 21 other states[1] that have enacted the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, or the CROWN Act.

Effective September 1, 2023, the law will prohibit discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles associated with an individual’s racial, ethnic, or cultural identity in schools, workplaces, and housing.

Although the Act has not been adopted at the federal level, the nearly two dozen states with CROWN Act legislation signal a rising tide in favor of the law. Texas employers are encouraged to review dress codes and grooming policies and ensure training is in place to educate employees, supervisors, and managers about the new regulations.

The significance of the CROWN Act

The CROWN Act was created in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN Coalition, an organization formed to lobby nationally for passage of the Act.  Because hair-based discrimination has long been a form of racial and cultural bias against people of color, particularly African Americans, the CROWN Coalition has advocated, on a state-by-state basis, for passage of the CROWN Act to ameliorate such prejudice in the workplace, schools, and other public spaces.

The Act specifically targets discrimination against hairstyles such as braids, locs, twists, and afros, which are commonly worn by African Americans and members of the Black community.

According to the CROWN Coalition, the CROWN Act is necessary to fill gaps in discrimination laws which do not protect against race-based hair discrimination.  By addressing this specific form of discrimination, the legislation adds to the legal safeguards designed to foster diversity and to create a more inclusive society.

Next steps for Texas employers

The Act amends Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code by adding section 21.1095.  Section 21.1095(a) defines “protective hairstyle” to include “braids, locks, and twists.” Section (b) prohibits discrimination “because of or on the basis of an employee’s hair texture or protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race.” Penalties for CROWN Act violations track the penalties available under the Texas Labor Code for discrimination on the basis of other legally protected characteristics.

To ensure compliance with the CROWN Act, Texas employers are encouraged to consider the following actions:

  • Review and update policies: Ensure any current dress code and grooming policies and other EEO/anti-discrimination policies prohibit discrimination or harassment based on natural hair or hairstyles associated with racial, ethnic, or cultural identity.
  • Educate employees and management: Provide training and resources to educate employees and management about the CROWN Act and the potential consequences of hair-based discrimination.
  • Create an inclusive environment: Foster a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion. Encourage open dialogue and understanding among employees to help break down stereotypes and promote a respectful workplace.
  • Address complaints promptly: Ensure a process is in place for employees to report potential violations of the CROWN Act and ensure timely investigation and appropriate action related to such complaints.

If you have questions about developments related to the CROWN Act or discrimination and harassment issues, please contact any of the authors or your DLA Piper relationship attorney.

[1]  As of the date of this article, there is CROWN Act legislation in the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.