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California reinforces protections for natural hairstyles

The California Senate followed New York’s lead by passing the CROWN ACT (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) in late April.

The act bans discrimination against employees with natural hairstyles, such as braids, twists and afros. The Los Angles Senator Holly J. Mitchell believes this bill specifically helps fight racial discrimination in the workplace due to the idea of natural hair being “unprofessional.”

During her speech on the Senate floor, Mitchell described how a simple Google search of “unprofessional hairstyles” lead to pages of black women with natural hair or wearing braids. She said, "Although disheartening, not very surprising."

The California Senate passed the bill with a unanimous vote of 37-0 and moved it on to the State Assembly. Ultimately, it is up to the state representatives to move this bill one step closer into law.

What can employees do now to prevent discrimination?

While discrimination against hairstyles is not technically in California law, it is illegal for employers to harass or demote you based solely on your race or ethnicity. It does not only have to be in forms of termination or outright harassment. Discrimination takes the form of:

  • Denial of promotions
  • Denial of training
  • Denial of raises
  • Negatives performance reviews

No one should have to work in a hostile working environment solely due to their race or ethnicity. Luckily, employees have the right to document any employer’s actions and file a complaint with Human Resources.

If your company does not perform a proper investigation or retaliates to the complaint, you will need to take further steps to ensure you are adequately compensated for your work and you do not receive unfavorable treatment by your colleagues. Consider finding the right attorney and working with them on a discrimination lawsuit if necessary.

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