New Massachusetts Law Creates Expanded Definition of Racial Discrimination in Employment and Other Areas to Encompass “Natural or Protective Hairstyles”

On July 26, 2022, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (“CROWN Act”) into regulation, making Massachusetts the 18th state to enact regulation geared toward protective towards discrimination at the foundation of hairstyles which are traditionally related to race. The CROWN Act will move into impact October 24, 2022, 90 days after Governor Baker signed the invoice.

The Massachusetts regulation amends the definition of “race” throughout a number of Massachusetts statuses, together with however no longer restricted to the general public lodging regulation (MGL c. 272), and the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act (MGL c. 151B), to offer that protections towards discrimination come with “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, hair length, and protective hairstyles.” See HB 4554, These amendments disclose Massachusetts employers to possible discrimination claims introduced by way of workers alleging employment discrimination at the foundation in their coiffure. Employers who’re discovered to be in violation of the CROWN Act might be responsible for compensatory damages, together with for example misplaced pay, in addition to conceivable punitive damages and legal professionals’ charges. The regulation additional defines “protective hairstyles” to incorporate “braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots, hair coverings and other formations.” In addition, the regulation expressly prohibits faculties and comparable organizations from enforcing or developing insurance policies or codes in relation to scholar participation in sports activities or athletic occasions “that impairs or prohibits a hairstyle that is historically associated with race.”

The regulation additionally duties the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”) with adopting and promulgating laws, rules, insurance policies, and proposals to put in force the regulation.

The CROWN ACT was once impressed by way of a case involving two teenage ladies. In 2017, a Boston suburb constitution faculty disciplined two teenage dual sisters for alleged violation of the varsity hair and makeup coverage, which amongst issues, prohibited extensions. The sisters, Deanna and Mya Cook, joined Governor Baker on the invoice’s signing.

Conclusions and Recommendations

In mild of the regulation’s have an effect on on Massachusetts statutes and discrimination rules, Massachusetts employers will have to sparsely evaluate their worker handbooks, insurance policies, and coaching fabrics to make sure they aren’t violation of the CROWN Act, and promptly take away or amend any problematic insurance policies at the books. Additionally, employers might need to imagine the use of this chance to offer managers and supervisory workforce with up to date discrimination coaching highlighting the impact of the brand new regulation.

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