Dear Employers, Read This to Avoid a Hairy Situation: Hairstyles Protected Under Colorado Anti-Discrimination Laws

Posted on: March 23, 2021
In: Labor & Employment

By: Joshua D. Kohler

I’ll cut to the chase – that will be my last of the possibly endless hair-related puns that could be used in this post. Puns notwithstanding, employers are facing a sharp rise in discrimination claims at the state and federal level. It is imperative that, as things get back to normal, employers take this time to carefully evaluate (and re-evaluate) their anti-discrimination policies and procedures.

As part of this evaluation, employers in the Centennial State should take note that Colorado has joined a growing list of states in enacting the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2020,” also known as the “CROWN Act of 2020.” Under Colorado’s CROWN Act, employers may be held liable for racial discrimination based on an employee’s hair texture, hair type, or a protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race, such as braids, locs, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots, Afros, and headwrap.

With respect to employees in particular, here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Do your policies or practice address an employee’s grooming or dress?
  • If so, do your policies or practice specify types of hairstyle or headdress? 
  • If so, are your policies or practice reasonably based on a bona fide hygiene or safety requirement (such as tying back one’s hair while operating certain machinery)? Is the specific hairstyle or headdress typically associated with a certain race, gender, or national origin, or now expressly identified in the CROWN Act?
  • If so, have you established a process for an employee to request accommodations of dress code requirements for religious or other purposes, including heritage?

These are only the initial consideration. If only protecting you and your business could be distilled into four bullet points! 

For more information on this new law, contact the author of this post, or visit our Labor & Employment Practice page to find an attorney in your area who can help you navigate the increasingly complex world of anti-discrimination laws. You can also subscribe to this blog to receive email alerts when new posts go up.

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