Minnesota Joins Trend with Hairstyle Discrimination Law

Author: Emily Scace, XpertHR Legal Editor

February 2, 2023

With Minnesota Governor Tim Walz's signature yesterday, the state joins the growing list of jurisdictions enacting CROWN Acts - laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of hairstyles often associated with a particular race or ethnicity.

The Minnesota CROWN Act, which takes August 1, 2023, amends the definition of race under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) to include traits associated with race, such as hair texture and hair styles including:

  • Braids;
  • Locs; and
  • Twists.

The effect of this definitional change is to prohibit discrimination against people based on these physical traits - both overt and implicit.

Often, an employer's dress code or appearance policy is intended to be race-neutral but disproportionately burdens Black people and other persons of color in its definition of professional appearance or attire. In other cases, even when a written policy is not involved, people who wear their hair in ways traditionally associated with a particular race or ethnicity may be more subtly penalized in hiring, promotions and other work opportunities. CROWN Acts like the Minnesota law aim to end these forms of discrimination.

To prepare for the law's impact, affected employers may need to consider updating dress codes and appearance policies, as well as updating their anti-discrimination, harassment and retaliation policies and training. Unlike federal antidiscrimination laws such as Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which exclude very small employers, the MHRA applies to all employers in Minnesota with one or more employees.

Including the Minnesota law, 19 states and the District of Columbia now prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle, along with many localities.