Massachusetts joined 17 other states when the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act was signed into law on July 26, 2022. The act takes effect October 24, 2022, which prohibits discrimination based on raced-related hairstyles in the workplace, school, and places of public accommodation. The CROWN Act expands the definition of race within several of Massachusetts’ statutes where discrimination of race is prohibited.
The new law expands the definition of race, in regard to prohibiting discrimination based on race, to include traits historically associated with race, including natural or protective hairstyles. Natural or protective hairstyle is defined as hair texture, hair type, and hairstyles. Hairstyles include, but are not limited to braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots, and other formations.
The following Massachusetts’ statutes, prohibit discrimination regarding race, and with this new law will now include an expanded definition of race, this list may not be exhaustive:
- Anti-Discrimination Law – Prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and lending (G.L. c. 151B § 4)
- Public School Enrollment (G.L. c.76§ 5)
- School Bullying and Prevention Plans (G.L. c.71§ 370)
- Charter Schools (G.L. c. 71§ 89)
- Public Accommodations (G.L. c.272 § 92A)
If certain workspaces need hair and grooming restrictions because of health and safety concerns, non-discriminatory accommodations should be considered and implemented when feasible. School districts, school committees, and public schools are expressly prohibited from adopting and/or implementing a policy or code that impairs or prohibits natural or protective hairstyles.
Employer Next Steps
- Employers should review their handbooks and related policies on the dress and appearance of employees.
- Employers should notify and train all managers, supervisors, and hiring and training personnel on the expansion of this protected category.
- Schools should train teachers and education staff on the expansion of this protected category.
- If you are a Full-Service or Virtual HR client and would like our assistance with updating your policy, please email us.
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This content is provided with the understanding that HR Knowledge is not rendering legal advice. While every effort is made to provide current information, the law changes regularly and laws may vary depending on the state or municipality. The material is made available for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice or your professional judgment. You should review applicable laws in your jurisdiction and consult experienced counsel for legal advice. If you have any questions regarding this content, please contact HR Knowledge at 508.339.1300 or email us.