Massachusetts Crown Act Prohibits Discrimination based on Hairstyle

Massachusetts recently enacted the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act), becoming the 18th state to enact such a law.

The Act expands protected categories by including hairstyle. Protected hairstyles encompass hair texture, type, length, and specific styles such as braids, locks, twists, bantu knots, hair coverings, and other formations. This new clarification within the Act means lawyers can no longer argue that hair-type discrimination is not based on race, and paves the way for easier success in discrimination claims.

Employers will need to review and update their handbooks and policies to include the newly amended anti-discrimination laws, which expand the definition of race to include certain “protected hairstyles.”

Additionally, employers should examine their current hiring and screening practices, and consider whether any changes are needed to existing dress codes or appearance policies. Employers who violate the Act may be on the hook for compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees.

Written By: Attorney Timothy M. Netkovick, and Law Clerk Lauren B. Rainville

Timothy M. Netkovick

     Lauren Rainville