The New Jersey Legislature recently continued its efforts to remain one of the leading states in the Country in protecting employee rights. On December 19, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law banning discrimination based on hairstyles associated with race.
The law, entitled “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act,” or the “CROWN Act,” amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. (“NJLAD”) to include “traits historically associated with race including … hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles” such as afros, dreadlocks and cornrows. The law is not limited to the workplace. It also makes it illegal to target people at school and in public spaces.
According to the Guidance on Race Discrimination Based on Hairstyle issued by the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, “just as it would likely violate the NJLAD to refuse to hire an Orthodox Jewish man because he wears payot, or to refuse to hire a Muslim woman because she wears a hijab, or refuse to hire a Sikh person because he wears uncut hair, it is unlawful to otherwise treat a Black person differently because he wears his hair in a style that is closely associated with being Black. New Jersey is only the third State to pass this type of legislation, following California and New York.