In recent years, a growing number of states have enacted “Crown Act” laws, which prohibit employers, schools and other institutions from discriminating against Black people for having natural hair or for wearing their hair in styles that are associated with Black hair. A federal Crown Act has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, but so far, it’s going nowhere in the Senate.
Although Pennsylvania doesn’t have a Crown Act, both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh do. One more city – York – will be added to that list if the vice president of the York City Council and those who support her succeed in their efforts.
She’s attempting to add protection to the city’s Human Relations Ordinance. The chair of the Human Relations Commission says, “Certainly the fact that we still have to do these sorts of things is disheartening but I’m glad that we have the tools in place and that we’re willing to take the necessary steps to apply those tools.”
Seeking an end to mandating that Black employees and students change their hair
The “CROWN” movement (which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) has taken off in just a few years, with help from the beauty care line Dove. Black women, in particular, have faced decades of being told that their particular hairstyles, like braids, twists and locs, are “unprofessional” or distracting. However, we’ve seen examples of coaches ordering Black student-athletes to cut their hair or even, in at least one instance, having an employee do it for them.
The York City Council official notes, “Just because an individual has braids in their hair, it does not make them look unprofessional or unable to complete their job duties.” She says that the community response to the proposed amendment has been overwhelmingly positive. The York City Council is scheduled to vote on the measure later this month.
It’s important to remember that workplace discrimination takes many forms. It’s usually not as overt as someone using slurs or derogatory language. Sometimes, just telling someone they can’t be who they are – even when it has no effect on their work or others in the workplace – is discriminatory. If you believe that you’ve been the victim of discrimination and your employer has not done anything to rectify the situation, it may be time to find out what legal remedies you have.