In June, Michigan passed anti-discrimination legislation that makes hair discrimination illegal.
This new law, officially known as the “CROWN Act” (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), amends the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to expand the definition of race to ban hair discrimination. It prohibits discrimination based on hair texture or type.
Michigan becomes the 23rd state to sign the CROWN Act into law.
Michigan’s new CROWN Act makes hair discrimination illegal, expanding the definition of race in the state’s Civil Rights Act. The law protects individuals from discrimination based on hairstyle in workplaces, schools, and businesses. Employers should review policies to ensure they don’t disproportionately affect certain racial, ethnic, or cultural groups.
Initially passed in 1976, ELCRA prohibits discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status. The CROWN Act revises ELCRA to protect Michiganders from discrimination by including hair discrimination in the act.
The CROWN Act prohibits employers, educational institutions, and businesses from discriminating against an individual based on that person’s hairstyle, texture, or protective hairstyles. This includes everything from natural afros, braids, dreadlocks, twists, and bantu knots.
Thus, Michigan employers cannot make decisions about hiring, firing, promoting, or otherwise treating someone differently because of the way they wear their hair.
In light of the Michigan CROWN Act, employers should thoroughly review their current policies and practices to remove any hair restrictions that disproportionately affect people of certain racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds.
This includes assessing dress codes and personal grooming policies to ensure they do not disproportionately target or disadvantage individuals based on their natural hairstyles. Companies should also update HR training and discrimination reporting to include hair discrimination. Managers must understand that employees have the right to wear their hair however they choose without fear of criticism or repercussions from employers, schools, and other organizations.
If you have any further questions about the Michigan CROWN Act, or need legal advice on protecting your rights regarding hair discrimination, please contact Jason M. Shinn. For twenty-plus years, he has represented employers and employees in Michigan, and federal employment law matters.