On February 1, 2023, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed the CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” The law prohibits racial discrimination based on natural hairstyles and textures. The CROWN Act, which will go into effect on August 1, 2023, represents a meaningful advancement in anti-discrimination laws for employees in Minnesota.
Expanding Protections Under Minnesota Human Rights Act
The Minnesota Human Rights Act is the state law that prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, familial status, membership or activity in a local commission, disability, sexual orientation, and age. While the Minnesota Human Rights Act protects against racial discrimination, the problem of hair discrimination and racial prejudice toward the natural hair of African Americans has gone unchecked in Minnesota.
Minorities, especially African Americans, can face discrimination in the workplace based on their hairstyle. They may be made to feel that their preferred hairstyle, such as dreadlocks or braids, is not professional enough for the workplace. They may be subjected to rude comments, receive unwanted suggestions on how to change their appearance, or have fewer promotion opportunities simply due to their hairstyle.
The CROWN Act expands the definition of “race” under the Minnesota Human Rights Act to be “inclusive of traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and hair styles such as braids, locs, and twists.” This change ensures that hair discrimination is legally included as a form of racial discrimination. The amendment provides explicit protection from any adverse employment action, such as discipline, failure to promote, termination, or harassment, due to an employee’s hair texture or style associated with the person’s race. Beyond “braids, locs, and twists,” the CROWN Act does not provide additional details regarding other hair styles that are protected. It does not provide legal protection for differential treatment due to tattoos, piercings, or hair colorings.
Is Federal Legislation In Our Future?
Similar language to Minnesota’s CROWN Act has been adopted in nineteen other states with pending legislation introduced in all but a handful of states. The push for nationwide adoption of CROWN Act legislation is not slowing down. In fact, when these bills have failed at the state level, supporters have advocated for them at the city and county level. Federal CROWN Act legislation has been unsuccessful to date.
If you believe you have been discriminated by an employer because of your hairstyle, contact our Minnesota employment attorneys to discuss your employment situation. Our workplace discrimination lawyers will diligently fight to ensure that your rights are protected.