A bill that would ban schools and workplaces from having dress codes that forbid braids, twists and other natural hair styles has passed the California State Senate.
The Crown Act, introduced by Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Holly Mitchell, is aimed at creating a respectful and open workplace for those with natural hair.
SB 188 updates the state’s anti-discrimination laws so the definition of race “also include traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
It passed on Monday in a 37-0 vote and will now go to the State Assembly.
California Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove said the new legislation could set a precedent as the first statewide measure to ban natural hair discrimination in the country.
The purpose of the measure is to educate the public about the unique qualities of black hair textures and challenge commonly held myths and misconceptions about what constitutes professional hair styles in the workplace, schools, media and even the military, Kamlager-Dove said.
Bill aims to foster inclusion and diversity
Policies against natural hair are unfair toward African-Americans, the bill says.
“Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group,” it said.
Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Holly J. Mitchell introduced the bill and said that it would encourage schools and businesses to create grooming policies “that will foster inclusion and diversity.”
’Too many reports of black children humiliated’
Mitchell said that until recently, an image search for “unprofessional hairstyles” only showed black women with natural hair, braids or twists.
“I believe that any law policy or practice that sanctions a job description that immediately excludes me from a profession – not because of my capacity or my capabilities or my experience but because of my hairstyle choice – is long overdue for reform,” said Mitchell, who observed that she wears her hair in a natural style.
Mitchell said that similar state and federal laws protect against discrimination due to religious hairstyles and head coverings.
“However, there are still far too many cases of black employees and applicants denied employment or promotion – even terminated – because of the way they choose to wear their hair,” she said. “I have heard far too many reports of black children humiliated and sent home from school because their natural hair was deemed unruly or a distraction to others.”
Last year, a referee at a wrestling tournament in New Jersey drew widespread condemnation when he ordered a black high school wrestler to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit his match.
In February, New York City enacted a new law that protects the rights of New Yorkers to “maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities.”
CNN’s Alexandra Meeks contributed to this report