Colorado, Virginia Pass Protections Against Hair Discrimination

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

March 16, 2020

Colorado and Virginia have joined three other states in enacting legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of hair. California was the first state to pass a such a law, followed by New Jersey and New York. Several localities also have passed or considered ordinances protecting certain types of natural hair or hairstyles.

These types of laws seek to prevent the use of hair textures and traditional styles often associated with minority cultures from being used as a proxy for race to limit work opportunities.

Colorado enacted the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2020 (CROWN Act of 2020). It amends the state's fair employment practices provisions by defining "race" to include hair texture, hair type or a protective hairstyle that is commonly or historically associated with race. "Protective hairstyle" is defined to include hairstyles such as:

  • Braids;
  • Dreadlocks / Locs;
  • Twists;
  • Tight coils or curls;
  • Cornrows;
  • Bantu knots;
  • Afros; and
  • Head wraps.

The Colorado law will take effect 90 days after the final adjournment of the General Assembly (August 5, 2020, if the legislature adjourns as scheduled on May 6).

The Virginia amendment, effective July 1, 2020, clarifies that the terms "because of race" or "on the basis of race" when used in reference to discrimination under the Virginia Human Rights Act extend to "traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists."

Employers in states or localities that have passed hair discrimination laws should carefully review dress code and grooming policies to ensure they do not prohibit natural hair or traditional hairstyles so as to create a disparate impact or place more of a burden on minority applicants and employees.