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Mitchell bill preventing hair discrimination passes Senate

LOS ANGELES — A Southland lawmaker’s bill seeking to prevent workplace hair-grooming rules that discriminate against styles favored by black women and men passed the Senate floor April 22 on a unanimous vote.

Introduced by Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, SB 188 aims to “create a respectful and open workplace for natural hair” by clarifying that traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and hairstyle, be protected from discrimination in the workplace and in K-12 public and charter schools.

SB 188 passed the Senate floor on a bipartisan 37-0 vote, according to Mitchell’s office, and will next be heard in the Assembly.

According to Mitchell, the bill is known as the CROWN Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” and is sponsored by a coalition comprised of the National Urban League, Western Center on Law & Poverty, Color Of Change and the Dove personal care brand.

“While federal anti-discrimination laws explicitly defend the choice to wear an Afro, they are silent with regard to braids, locks (or locs) and twists, known collectively as ‘protective hairstyles,’ and commonly worn by African-American and black women and men,” according to a statement released by Mitchell’s office.

“Many black employees … will tell you if given the chance that the struggle to maintain what society has deemed a ‘professional image’ while protecting the health and integrity of their hair remains a defining and paradoxical struggle in their work experience, not usually shared by their non-black peers,” Mitchell said shortly before the Senate vote. 

“Members, it is 2019. Any law that sanctions a job description that immediately excludes me from a position, not because of my capabilities or experience but because of my hair, is long overdue for reform.”

The Senate vote was hailed by Esi Eggleston Bracey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of North America Beauty and Personal Care at Unilever, parent of the Dove brand.

“As a proud member of the CROWN Coalition, Dove is committed to impacting the lives of all of the people we serve,” Bracey said. “We are thrilled to see that the California Senate passed SB 188, and look forward to continuing to drive equity and fairness for all women and men, particularly around hair inclusivity.”

From City News Service