On July 7, 2023, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Bill No. 1394, commonly referred to as “the CROWN Act”. With significant margins of support, the bill will be reviewed in the state Senate and likely become law.
The CROWN Act intends to end hair type, hair texture, and hairstyle discrimination. KingSpry’s Employment Law Attorney, Jody A. Mooney, emphasizes what employers should know about this pending law.
Fighting Discrimination in Employment Practices
Upon passage in the state Senate, the CROWN Act will make it illegal to discriminate against a person due to their natural hair. Representatives La’Tasha D. Mayes and Joanna E. McClinton emphasize the need for this legislation, in their memorandum, noting that far too often, people of color are subjected to incidents of discrimination due to their natural hair.
The passage of the CROWN Act in the House proves that further efforts must be made to end discrimination in the workplace. “[Though] strides have been made to end discrimination through policy, it still exists in reality.”
The CROWN Act will end situations in which individuals feel pressured to change their hairstyle for a job interview or are denied access to a job solely based on their hairstyle.
Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair
CROWN stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. Upon passage in the state Senate, it will accomplish its efforts to end discrimination of natural hair by amending the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”).
Amendment to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act
The CROWN Act will revise the definition of “race” to include traits associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles.
Additionally, it will implement a definition for the term “protective hairstyle”, which is, but is not limited to, hairstyles such as “locs, braids, twists, coils, Bantu knots, afros and extensions”.
Support of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
The CROWN Act has not only received support from the Pennsylvania Legislature, but also support from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”). On July 10, 2023, the PHRC published a statement sharing it “was pleased to see the Pennsylvania House pass the CROWN Act”.
PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW, commented, “the commission would like all Pennsylvanians to know, regardless of what happens with this specific legislation, the PHRC recently implemented new regulations prohibiting hair discrimination. Pennsylvanians should rest assured knowing that the PHRC will not tolerate any form of discrimination.”
Regulations Prohibiting Hair Discrimination
Upon passage, the CROWN Act will govern the illegality of hair discrimination along with the PHRC’s new regulations, which will expand the definitions of ‘sex,’ ‘religious creed,’ and ‘race,’ upon implementation on August 16, 2023.
Employers should note that under the CROWN Act, specific grooming requirements may still be enforced, as long as it applies to all employees regardless of race.
Be Proactive: Review and Revise Your Employment Policies
Upon passage, the CROWN Act will take effect in sixty (60) days. Employers must review their employment practices to ensure compliance with the anticipated law.
Employers should use this time to review their codes of conduct, dress codes/uniforms, and grooming policies to ensure all language complies with the requirements of the CROWN Act.
Not only should policies be reviewed, but employment processes, such as hiring, should also be considered. Employers should communicate with their HR teams about the updated laws and new company policies to ensure compliance.
Takeaways for Employers
Overall, this pending legislation signals that it is time for employers in the Commonwealth to review their policies and make the necessary changes to eradicate discrimination in all forms, and notably in employment practices.
Employers should expect the CROWN Act to become law in the following months, and they must be prepared to comply with its provisions. KingSpry’s Employment Law Group is keeping abreast of these changes and is prepared to assist you.
Click here to contact our Employment Law Team if you have any questions or concerns regarding the CROWN Act’s impact on employment policies.