Is Hair Discrimination Illegal in New Jersey?

In December of 2019, New Jersey became the third state to ban hair employment discrimination by passing the CROWN Act, which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The CROWN Act is an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and clarifies the definition of race in that legislation to include hair texture, type, and protective hairstyles. Examples of protective hair styles include braids, locks, and twists among others.

Since hair discrimination became illegal in New Jersey, more than half of all states have legislation filed or pre-filed for consideration. A total of 18 states have enacted the CROWN Act into law. At the federal level, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the CROWN Act in March 2022 and is waiting for the Senate to take further action.

CROWN Act Passed After Wrestling Incident

When the Office of the Governor announced the passage of the CROWN Act, it was noted that the law was introduced as a reaction to an incident where a high school wrestler was forced to cut off his dreadlocks to be able to compete in a match in 2018. The CROWN Act recognizes the reality that white European standards of beauty have been the basis of discrimination when combined with stereotypes of traditionally black hairstyles as unprofessional or unkempt.

Many black women are familiar with this dilemma. Black women with natural hair are more likely to be judged harshly on their looks, be sent home for violation of company grooming policies, and often receive unsolicited comments and suggestions about their hair. Hairstyle affects their performance reviews with black women consistently being rated lower or “less ready” than their peers.

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has provided guidance for employers, housing providers, and places of public accommodation, including schools, on how the CROWN Act may be applied in court. Grooming or appearance policies may no longer ban, limit, or restrict hairstyles closely associated with black people, such as braids, cornrows, afros, locs, Bantu knots, and others. Language that requires employees to maintain an appearance that is “professional” or “tidy” could  violate the NJLAD if applied or enforced selectively against black people or any group of employees. The DCR also warned that an employer cannot justify a grooming policy based on customer preferences or complaints.

South Jersey Employment Lawyer at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Fights to Protect Workers’ Rights

If you feel you have been treated unfairly at work because of your hairstyle, talk to our experienced South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. We will investigate your case thoroughly and fight to protect your rights in the workplace. Call us at 856-235-7075 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and to learn more. Located in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly represent clients throughout South Jersey, including those in Cherry Hill, Camden County, and Burlington County.