July 23, 2021

Gillibrand Announces Legislation To Implement A Federal Ban On Hair Discrimination

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her co-sponsorship of the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, a critical piece of legislation to ban pervasive, race-based discrimination against natural hair, hair textures, and hairstyles commonly worn by Black people. The CROWN Act is led in the Senate by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“For far too long, discrimination and prejudice against Black hair has been used as another tool to create barriers and disenfranchise Black people. No one should ever be criticized, harassed, or punished for their natural hair and heritage,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to join my friend and colleague Senator Booker to set a clear, federal standard banning discrimination against Black hair. The CROWN Act would help combat and correct deeply ingrained social biases against Black hair and ensure our children grow up learning to love themselves and their individual beauty.”

Discrimination against natural hair remains a significant barrier in both the personal and professional advancement of people of color, especially Black women. A recent study found that Black women’s hair is three times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional and that Black women are 80 percent more likely to feel the need to alter their natural hair to fit office standards. Additionally, Black women are 50 percent more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair.

Current federal law prohibits some forms of hair discrimination as racial discrimination. However, federal courts have narrowly construed protections that allow schools, workplaces, and federally-funded institutions to discriminate against people of African descent who wear natural or protective hairstyles. The CROWN Act makes clear that discrimination against natural and protective hairstyles associated with people of African descent, including hair that is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros, is a prohibited form of racial or national origin discrimination.   

This legislation is supported by 55 organizations, including the Congressional Black Caucus, CROWN Coalition advocate Adjoa B. Asamoah, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The full text of the bill can be found here.