Earlier this year, Colorado joined a growing list of states that have banned natural hair discrimination. Colorado’s CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act) went into effect on September 14, 2020 with the goal of preventing racial discrimination premised on a person’s natural hair type or race-based hairstyle.
The CROWN Act amends Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act by defining “race” to include “hair texture, hair type, or a protective hairstyle that is commonly or historically associated with race.” A protective hairstyle may include braids, locs, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots, Afros, and headwraps. In other words, under the new law, an employer who discriminates against an employee because of the employee’s natural hair texture, hair type, or protective hairstyle is discriminating on the basis of race.
Colorado employers should review and update handbooks, policies, and training materials to ensure compliance with the new law. In particular, employers should review policies pertaining to dress codes or grooming standards to ensure that such policies do not contain language that could be construed to prohibit workers from maintaining natural hairstyles. Additionally, employers should provide training to managers and supervisors who enforce any dress code or grooming policies to ensure that they understand that natural hair texture and protective hairstyles are now protected in the workplace.