Texas Adopts CROWN Act to Address Racial Hair Discrimination

On May 27, 2023, Governor Greg Abbott signed a new state law in Texas called the Crown Act. Texas now joins 20 other states and many local governments, including Harris County and Austin, in adopting a measure that prohibits racial hair discrimination in Texas workplaces, schools, and public housing. The CROWN Act will go into effect on September 1.

CROWN stands for the actual name of this law, Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. It extends statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locks, twists, and knots. In the employment context, the CROWN Act amends Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code, prohibiting discrimination in the workplace based on an employee’s style of hair commonly associated with race.

Call an Employment Lawyer at Kilgore & Kilgore

Racial hair discrimination is more than the corrosive collection of petty slights, hostility, and micro-aggressions that black people face every day at work and in school. It can have long-lasting negative effects on mental health and economic well-being. As of September 1, it will be against the law in Texas.

If you experience racial hair discrimination or unequal treatment based on race (including a natural hair style), sex, pregnancy, disability, age, national origin or religion, reach out to us. Click on this link Contact Kilgore & Kilgore. Fill out and submit the form on our website. Or call us at (214) 949-9099. Let us help you set your situation right.

Black Women and Girls are Prime Targets of Racial Hair Discrimination

The statistics are shocking. More than 80 percent of black women report that they had to change their hairstyles just to fit into a workplace. Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair. And 100 percent of black elementary school girls in majority-white schools have experienced racial hair discrimination by the age of ten.

Young men and boys are not immune from natural hair discrimination either, although statistics are harder to find. We have all heard stories of young black Texans being banned from sports or events like high school graduation unless they cut their hair.

How the CROWN Act Will Work

This remains to be seen. It is important to keep two things in mind right now.

First, the CROWN Act amends three existing laws — the Education, Labor, and Property Codes — to add the legal definition of a protective hairstyle to include braids, locks, and twists. The good news is that the amendments will also expand the definition of discrimination because of race or on the basis of race to include discrimination because of or on the basis of an employee’s hair texture or protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race.

The bad news is that amendments to existing laws presumably roll forward any existing caveats, limits, and ambiguities. It is not a blank slate. For example, courts ordinarily give considerable deference to an employer’s safety regulations limiting hair length for those working with dangerous machinery. Employers can also impose dress codes about things like jackets, shoes, or uniform shirts. These rules have run afoul of Constitutional protections, however, when it comes to retail clothing salespeople expected to model a certain look policy that might exclude certain hair styles, or religiously-mandated head coverings. It remains to be seen how natural hair acceptance will fit into these policies.

Schools have traditionally been given quite a lot of latitude when it comes to maintaining a learning atmosphere. This has historically had First Amendment limits. Black arm bands to protest a war were protected. A banner proclaiming Bong Hits for Jesus was not. Will Texas courts treat natural hairstyles as protected speech in a similar conflict between individual rights and the school’s role in protecting students?

Second, the language of the amendments seems narrowly tailored to protect certain traditional black hairstyles, such as braids, locks, knots, and twists. Will these new amendments also protect the employment rights of a black woman who chooses to deal with a medical condition known as alopecia by shaving her head? What about a Pacific Islander football player or a student who identifies as a member of the Cree or Mohave nation who chooses to rock traditional waist-long dreads?

The Proxy War Regarding Racial Hair

The CROWN Act leaves a lot of legal territory to be explored. Natural hair acceptance is about identity. As the United States continues to grow into its multi-racial and multi-ethnic identity, hair is a proxy war. We are not really arguing about braids. We are talking about who we are.

A federal version of the CROWN Act passed the House of Representatives but died in the Senate in 2022. Federal action to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other education, labor, and housing laws could add some clarity to the situation.

Our Employment Lawyers Fight Workplace Discrimination of Every Kind and Will Defend Racial Hair and Other Discrimination as Employee Rights Under Texas Law

Experience counts with a new law and untested protections from racial hair discrimination. Contact us if you believe that you have been the victim of discrimination, harassment, or other workplace problems, whether these involve natural hair or other facts. Reach out to Kilgore & Kilgore for a free review of the facts of your case. Click here to get the conversation started contact Kilgore & Kilgore. We look forward to hearing from you.

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