Minnesota Passes Law Banning Hair Discrimination

On February 1, 2023, Governor Tim Walz signed the CROWN Act, whose name stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” The law prohibits racial discrimination based on natural hair texture and protective hairstyles.  At least 18 other states have passed similar laws.  A federal bill passed the U.S. House in 2022, led by Black women lawmakers including Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., but failed in the Senate.

The legislation adds protections to the Minnesota Human Rights Act for “traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and hair styles such as braids, locs, and twist.”  The law protects a person’s decision, free from discrimination, to wear their natural hair in the workplace and in school. It is intended to safeguard those whose natural hair styles have been treated as “unprofessional” or in violation of employers’ or schools’ dress code policies.  The new law will go into effect on August 1, 2023.

The law does not apply to unnatural colors such as pink or blue hair, for example, or supersede military or safety laws.

Bottom Line

Employers should review their policies and handbook to ensure they are broad enough to prohibit discrimination based on traits associated with race, such as natural hair and hair styles, including but not limited to braids, locs, and twists. Employers should also train their managers, human resources staff, and other employees involved in interviewing and hiring decisions on these policies regarding employees’ appearance.

If you have questions regarding this new law and/or your employment practices or policies, contact one of Felhaber’s employment attorneys.