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H.R.2116 – Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2022

March 30, 2022 | Employment Law

At the end of March, the House of Representatives passed a bill that prohibits discrimination based on a person’s hair texture or hairstyle if that style or texture is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin. Specifically, the bill prohibits this type of discrimination against those participating in federally assisted programs, housing programs, public accommodations, and employment.

The NAACP contends, “Hair discrimination is an undue burden that polices Black identity and upholds white supremacy. With no nationwide legal protections against hair discrimination, Black people are often left to risk facing consequences at school or work for their natural hair or invest time and money to conform to Eurocentric professionalism and beauty standards.”

The CROWN Act of 2022 would change that. The act contends some Federal courts have misinterpreted Federal civil rights law by narrowly interpreting the meaning of race or national origin, and thereby permitting, for example, employers to discriminate against people of African descent who wear natural or protective hairstyles even though the employment policies involved are not related to workers’ ability to perform their jobs. 

On the House floor Rep. Ayanna Pressley said, “For too long, Black girls have been discriminated against and criminalized for the hair that grows on our heads and the way we move through and show up in this world.” 

In 2019 and 2020, State legislatures and municipal bodies throughout the U.S. have introduced and passed legislation that rejects certain Federal courts’ restrictive interpretation of race and national origin, and expressly classifies race and national origin discrimination as inclusive of discrimination on the basis of natural or protective hairstyles commonly associated with race and national origin. 

Twelve states have successfully passed legislation that bans discrimination based on hair texture.

The U.S. Army also recognized that prohibitions against natural or protective hairstyles that African-American soldiers are commonly adorned with are racially discriminatory, harmful, and bear no relationship to African-American servicewomen’s occupational qualifications and their ability to serve and protect the Nation. As of February 2021, the U.S. Army removed minimum hair length requirements and lifted restrictions on any soldier wearing braids, twists, locs, and cornrows in order to promote inclusivity and accommodate the hair needs of soldiers.

On March 22, 2022, the proposed bill, The Crown Act of 2022, was received by the Senate and immediately referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.  

What will the Senate Judiciary Committee do with the bill? A committee or subcommittee may interact with a bill in a variety of ways. Bills may be referred to or discharged from a committee by the full chamber. Committees may debate or add amendments, hold hearings to learn more about a topic, or may express legislative interest. Committees report legislation out to the full chamber recommending or disapproving consideration, or may report an original bill. 

Once passed, the act will specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of natural or protective hairstyles and makes such discrimination prosecutable under existing Federal law, including provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.), section 1977 of the Revised Statutes (42 U.S.C. 1981), and the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.).

The White House said, “The President believes that no person should be denied the ability to obtain a job, succeed in school or the workplace, secure housing, or otherwise exercise their rights based on a hair texture or hairstyle.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee has been consumed with the confirmation process of the current Supreme Court Justice nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson.  After their confirmation vote on Monday April 4, 2022 the Senate Judiciary Committee will have turned its attention to other matters including the review and consideration of The CROWN Act of 2022.