The Crown Act & New Jersey’s Fight Against African-American Hair Discrimination

Rules on hair in schools and the workplace are not uncommon and have been enforced in these environments for decades. However, in recent years, African Americans have been pushing back against them.

For many employers and schools, black hairstyles, including (but not limited to) dreadlocks, cornrows, braids, Afros, and twists, are considered unacceptable and unprofessional. This condemnation of hairstyles has forced black employees and students to conform to unfair standards by altering or hiding their natural hair through the use of wigs, accepted haircuts, and even chemical relaxers to “tame” and “control” natural curls, kinks, and textures. Recently, there has been a growing trend of all-natural, chemical-free hairstyles for black individuals in the U.S., bringing the hidden conflict to light.

In recent news, recorded confrontations and issues have made headlines across the nation, including the widely-publicized incident wherein high school wrestler, Andrew Johnson, was forced to cut his dreadlocks in front of spectators or forfeit the match. Stories of six-year-old Clinton Stanley Jr. from Florida and 11-year-old Faith Fennidy in Louisiana being sent home due to their natural hairstyle have also reached national attention. 

This natural hair movement, which is undoubtedly a movement for healthier hair, is also intimately linked to racial identity and freedom of expression. Hairstyles like the ones mentioned above and the coarse, coiled, or curly textures are all-natural, since-birth elements of African American hair, connecting the rules against these elements and racial discrimination. 

As the leading discrimination and workplace sexual harassment lawyers in Camden Couty, NJ, we at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, PC, want to inform our readers and clients about a potential law in New Jersey that would make it illegal for schools and employers in the state to discriminate based on hair. This law is called the CROWN Act. 

CROWN, an acronym for Creating a Respectful & Open World (or Workplace) for Natural hair, is an Act founded by the CROWN Coalition. The Coalition comprises Dove®, the National Urban League, the Western Center on Law & Poverty, and Color of Change. The CROWN Act has been gathering steam since it was sent to the California Legislature this year. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the CROWN Act into law just last month, with New York City and N.Y. Governor Cuomo’s signature the following suit. Recently, Senator Sandra B. Cunningham of NJ introduced the CROWN Act to New Jersey Legislature, and we are hoping to continue the fight against racial discrimination by becoming the third state to welcome natural hair into our schools and workplaces.

Our workplace sexual harassment lawyers in Gloucester County, NJ, are proud to advocate for clients who have experienced discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment in the workplace. With the CROWN Act reaching NJ lawmakers, it is possible that we at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, PC, will soon have the opportunity to represent employees who have experienced racial discrimination based on a hairstyle. For more information on how we at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, PC, can fight for you, please give us a call today.

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