The California State Assembly has voted unanimously to pass legislation that would make it the first state in the country to ban natural hair discrimination.
The state chamber passed Senate Bill 188 in a 69-0 vote on Thursday, sending the legislation to the desk of Gov. (D) for consideration. The state Senate also voted unanimously to pass the legislation back in April.
If signed by Newsom, the bill would officially add hair-based discrimination associated with race to California’s anti-discrimination law.
The state Legislature declared in the bill’s text that the history of the United States is filled with laws that equated “blackness” and physical traits like dark skin and kinky hair to “a badge of inferiority, sometimes subject to separate and unequal treatment.”
“This idea also permeated societal understanding of professionalism,” the bill continues. “Professionalism was, and still is, closely linked to European features and mannerisms, which entails that those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional.”
The bill also states that workplace policies prohibiting natural hair “including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group.”
Legislators pointed to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the text of the bill, which bans racial discrimination and “therefore protects against discrimination against afros.”
“However, the courts do not understand that afros are not the only natural presentation of Black hair. Black hair can also be naturally presented in braids, twists, and locks,” the bill states.
“Acting in accordance with the constitutional values of fairness, equity, and opportunity for all, the Legislature recognizes that continuing to enforce a Eurocentric image of professionalism through purportedly race-neutral grooming policies that disparately impact Black individuals and exclude them from some workplaces is in direct opposition to equity and opportunity for all,” the bill adds.
The passage of the California bill, also dubbed the CROWN Act, comes after New York City banned hair-based discrimination in guidelines rolled out by the New York City Commission on Human Rights earlier this year.