Bill Banning Racially Motivated Hair Discrimination in NJ Passes Legislature

The Crown Act adds racial discrimination based on traits of hair, hair texture, and styles associated with race to New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
December 16, 2019 4:30 pm

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of New Jersey
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

A bill to ban racial discrimination based on hair style and texture passed in the New Jersey Legislature, and it now goes to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

S3945/A5564, the “Create a Respectful and Open Workspace for Natural Hair,” or CROWN Act, amends New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination to overtly specify that discrimination based on characteristics of hair associated with race – such as texture, hair type, and hair styles – is illegal.

“Black hair is a prompt that too often reveals the bigotry of people who imagine themselves to merely be upholding professional ‘standards’ – standards that too often treat textured hair and protective styles as unsuited for the office, classroom, and board room,” said ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Karen Thompson, who testified in favor of the bill. “By establishing through statute that hair discrimination violates New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, we come closer to ensuring that all New Jerseyans can contribute to their communities and workplaces as our full selves, without fear of shaming for being who we all naturally are.”

Hair discrimination emerged as a national issue in late 2018, when New Jersey high school student Andrew Johnson was forced to have his locs cut on the spot at a wrestling match or forfeit the meet. In early December, U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced legislation at the federal level that would ban racial or ethnic discrimination based on natural hair styles. If the Crown Act is signed into law, New Jersey would be only the second state, after California, to include discrimination against natural hair as a form of racial discrimination.

“New Jersey stands poised to be a leader on questions of equality and anti-discrimination policies by writing this amendment into the Law Against Discrimination, providing protections that are stronger than federal safeguards,” said ACLU-NJ Policy Director Sarah Fajardo. “To begin to confront the long stigma that falsely associates the way a person’s hair naturally grows with a lack of professionalism, we need to state overtly: this is racial discrimination, and it’s illegal. By signing this bill, New Jersey has taken an important step in changing that bias.”

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release