SAINT PAUL – Legislation to outlaw discrimination on the basis of hairstyle is moving forward in the Minnesota House. On February 13, the House Government Operations Committee approved the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, authored by Rep. Rena Moran (DFL – Saint Paul), which would add a provision to the Minnesota Human Rights Act to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of hair appearance and texture.
“African American Minnesotans should be able to fully embrace who they are, and hairstyle is a significant part of their heritage. Unfortunately, rather than being able to feel proud, they often feel fearful of their employer because of how their hair looks,” Rep. Moran said. “For me, it’s especially important that Black young people in our state can feel good about themselves. I’m hopeful this legislation will help end the implicit bias that too many Black Minnesotans face on a daily basis.”
While the state’s Human Rights Act already prohibits discrimination based on race, discrimination of someone wearing their hair in a culturally-appropriate manner – like braids, dreadlocks, or twists – is not. The CROWN Act would extend this protection to many areas of law covered by the Minnesota Human Rights Act, including public services and accommodations, education, housing and employment.
The issue received increased attention when Matthew Cherry, director of the film “Hair Love,” urged all 50 states to adopt the measure during his acceptance speech following the film’s victory at this year’s Oscars. A Houston-area high school senior who was prohibited from walking in his graduation ceremony unless he cut his dreadlocks has also brought attention to this issue.
According to Dove’s CROWN Coalition Research Study, 80 percent of African Americans are likely to change their natural hair to meet employer expectations. Fifty percent of African American women feel likely to be dismissed from work – or know someone who has been – for not following their employer’s grooming policy.
During last week’s committee hearing, Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero noted a recent case in Minnesota where an employer changed their hair policy, and then fired several workers who didn’t comply. A settlement which resulted in the workers regaining their jobs was later reached. Another notable incident occurred in 2018 when a New Jersey high school wrestler elected to cut his dreadlocks matside rather than forfeit a match due to his hairstyle.
California, New Jersey and New York have already enacted similar measures.
The next stop for the bill is the House Judiciary and Civil Law Division.