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Massachusetts Enacts Law Banning Discrimination Based on Hair Texture and Style

On July 26, 2022, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (“CROWN”) Act which expands the definition of “race” across Massachusetts statutes, as applied to a prohibition on discrimination based on race; thereby, banning discrimination based on traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, hair length and protective hairstyles in workplaces, school districts, and certain school-related organizations. The law defines “protective hairstyle” to include, without limitation, “braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots, hair coverings and other formations.”

Next Steps for Employers

Employers should review and update their existing equal employment opportunity and non-harassment/non-discrimination policies to include updated language regarding the term “race.” In addition, employers should review and update their existing dress code and/or grooming policies to remove reference to any prohibition on hairstyles.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.