Episode 213: The CROWN Act

In 2019, Dove, a popular beauty brand, and The CROWN Coalition began work on the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. As it stands now, 19 states have enacted this Act, and we predict that the rest of the country will follow suit. Listen now as Paul Edwards and Senior Solution Center expert Halisi Tambuzi discuss how employers need to be familiar with what the CROWN act is, and how it will affect your practice, to ensure you remain compliant.


Voice Over: You’re about to listen to another episode of What The Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwwrds and his guests as they discuss and sometimes even solve some interesting HR problems. 

Paul: And… I’m gonna go off the rails sometimes and talk about whatever I want. 

Halisi: Hi Paul

Paul: Hi there, Halisi. How are you doing, man?

Halisi: I’m doing well.

Paul: Doing all right? So we’re recording this late November or early December. Just got through Thanksgiving. Spent some time with my friends.

Halisi: Stomach full.

Paul: What did you do? What did you say? My stomach’s full.

Halisi: Stomachs full. Just in general, not yours specifically.

Paul: Oh, that hurt Halisi. No, he’s right. *Halisi Laughs* What did you do for Thanksgiving?

Halisi: I was intending on going to California. 

Paul: OK

Halisi: Ten hour trip to go see family.

Paul: Oh, that sounds wonderful. Well, you can pack up the wife and the kid and go see family.

Halisi: That was the intent.

Paul: What happened?

Halisi: The kid got sick 

Paul: What happened? Yeah

Halisi: Yeah, the kid got sick. She had. She had a hundred degrees. Temperature. And so we ended up not going. Didn’t want to put her in a car for that long period of time.

Paul: Of course, Yeah. And so how old is she now?

Halisi: She is about one and a half.

Paul: One and a half? Oh She’s a little gift that keeps on giving. Does she give it back to you yet? Yes, I think so.

Halisi: It tells me no. Yeah. No, all the time.

Paul: And no. She started to say no. Yeah.

Halisi: Yeah, no, she. She knew no before.

Paul: Yes. So, Halisi, I’m kind of I’m looking forward to today’s conversation. You brought this in for everybody who’s listening. Just reintroduce Elise. Elise is one of our experts in the Solution Center. So you know, he’s a mentor and he’s a problem solver, and he does it all within the context of whatever employment laws are surrounding the issue. And so we, you know, we’re always paying attention to what’s going on across the country.

Paul: We have our own compliance team who researches laws. And this law, forms of Crown Acts have been passing across the country. They generally start in big urban cities and they get passed by, you know, by the city council or whatever. You want to explain briefly to everybody listening what a crown act is, what generally.

Halisi: The Crown Act essentially protects employees from being adversely affected because of their hair, texture or hairstyle. Uh huh. When it’s connected to a natural hairstyle, when.

Paul: It’s connected to a mass natural.

Halisi: Natural hairstyle, associated with race or national origin.

Paul: OK. So this comes this kind of takes us to this this you know, when I heard that we were going to do this, I started making some notes. By the way, I always get ambushed with this stuff. So I started making notes. And what I what I thought of first off was this is this fits into our high hiring bias conversation, and it fits into that realm that I really like a lot.

Paul: Well, I don’t know. I like the bias, but I like to talk about it It’s not necessarily covered underneath any law. At least there’s me. We all have some biases we just don’t understand. And some of them are really innocuous. And, you know, they’re just not that big of a deal. Like, one of the hiring bias that’s common is the the interviewees job is to get you to like them and you end up in your hiring bias.

Paul: You hire the person you like more than the best qualified person because you spend more time in the hey, I like this person. I’d like to work with them. Well, yeah, but they can’t memorize the script and they can’t do the job. But great. You like them. So that’s a form of hiring bias. You know, five years ago, six years ago, I don’t recall there being any criminal acts.

Paul: I don’t think that there were any being passed.

Halisi: There were not.

Paul: No. So, you know, you have a couple of personal stories that you want to share. And I think the first one is really kind of cool. I do want to say that when we release these six years.

Halisi: Know, six.

Paul: Years. Yeah, six years here when we hardly see him, he’s he had dreads. I mean, he had some good dreads. That was some serious stuff because, you know, dreads don’t just happen. You have to cultivate time consuming.

Halisi: I think I was in competition for the longest. Harris, you had.

Paul: Cool. So anyway, you know, I got to tell everybody, I don’t care what your hair looks like, it doesn’t affect your job or what you’re going to do. So if you’re walking around here, you can, you’ll see people with cat ears on. You’ll see people with blue hair. I mean, it just just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect how you do your job.

Paul: I do get that some people have some perceptions about other people’s appearances and how it might affect their ability to interact with patients or you know, you know, whatever, you know, whatever’s going on in there and their particular business. So I’m not I’m not discounting these concerns or these things that come forward. But a policing you shared one story right before we started recording.

Paul: Let’s start with the dreads and how that impacted you before you before you came to Cedar.

Halisi: Yeah, before I came here. So after in my undergrad, after I graduated, that awkward stage of what am I going to do with my life? Oh, yeah. And so I went to go apply to a hotel.

Paul: Yeah.

Halisi: Just to kind of work at their front desk position job.

Paul: Got to pay my rent, got.

Halisi: To do the how to do all that. Yeah. And they let me know that, hey, during the interview process that they I would need to cut my hair in order to be an employee there. Just ultimately that it wasn’t, it wasn’t professional Right. And so I was thinking at that moment, I was like, this is not my career spot where I want to be.

Halisi: And so cutting my hair is a big it was a big ask.

Paul: Yeah, a big tell.

Halisi: A big tell.

Paul: It wasn’t an that. It was if you want this job, this is to like to hire you, but you’re going to have to cut your hair.

Halisi: Yes.

Paul: You’re going to have to conform.

Halisi: Yes. Yeah. And so and it was taken back by it. Obviously, I didn’t cut my hair. And so I think it’s important, it’s an important to kind of identify how those things just come about.

Paul: I want to share something that I went through almost the same year, probably around that same age. Now, by the way, I did forklift driving, worked in a warehouse for a while. You know, I did some other things before I started my we’ll call this my professional career. I had a job offer coming straight out of college to work for a utility company and got the job.

Paul: And at the end, the guy said, how about you shave that beard? You got to cut your hair. But this goes back to that bias. It would have no effect on me. And I didn’t I didn’t take the job either. I think my approach to that is a little different than yours. But I’m not comparing the two biases.

Paul: But I am saying both of these employers missed out on really great people. Right? Correct. You would have done a fantastic job. I know you would have done you would have been the best damn hotel employee that they had at the time, and I would have been a great addition to the to the team for the city.

Paul: At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So did it hit you in other ways?

Halisi: It hit me in a way of just kind of thinking about it. Does this fall under some does this fall under a particular law? Yeah. Not that I knew anything about the law. Like this.

Paul: Seems.

Halisi: Wrong. Something about it just just seems odd. And I think that those are the kind of triggers that will push an employee to kind of start the research process.

Paul: Right.

Halisi: And I think that’s where that can be helpful for our members. Hey, some action that you take. Is it going to trigger an employee to say.

Paul: Right, OK, so before that, like, let’s say you’re African-American. Yeah, I don’t think we’re trying to keep a secret can I flash back with you a little bit and and maybe talk about before that, like high school, like how did this show up in high school? Did this show up in your life before then?

Halisi: It did show up in my life in high school. So so the the hotel wasn’t the first interaction in high school. A lot of people wanted to get waves. Waves. Ah, it’s part of the hairstyle. And you can see when you have short, shorter hair, you can almost see grooves inside, inside the hair and they almost look like waves.

Halisi: And so they’re called waves.

Paul: And how do you get how do you get these waves?

Halisi: You get these waves by putting on a tight head scarf. I do. I do. Yeah, I do. Right. And so you have to kind of keep it there. You would put you’d moisturize it so that it ultimately just kind of creates these waves, this.

Paul: Natural, this kind of thing. The natural.

Halisi: Yeah, natural hairstyle. But in, in school they, they associated it with the associated the do rags with gang affiliation. Wow. And so if you were if you were wearing it, didn’t they assume that you were part of it, part of a gang? Right. And so that would that was just another that was just that was the initial instance.

Paul: That was the initial essence. And that wasn’t true, was it?

Halisi: And it was not true.

Paul: It wasn’t true in any way.

Halisi: Shape it was not true.

Paul: And there were probably some gang members who. Yeah. So in my school and and I’m older than you see by quite a few years in my school all the white kids were getting perms and they didn’t say anything to us about the head. They just let us have all the perms we wanted. And really that was a crime against nature.

Paul: If you look back at some of those pictures, and some of the you know, I used to have really curly hair. It just curl naturally. I know you want to hear my hair stories. I know everybody everyone listening to this is like, please pull go on about your curly hair. No. The people just ask me, did you get a perm?

Paul: You know, and I’m from the East Coast in the south and it was always like, are you do you get pulled when your hair in a butt? But, you know, nobody ever said anything to us. And like I said, it was a you know, it was it was going all around so it just kind of, again, takes you back to this sort of bias thing that that goes on in society.

Paul: So at some point, it is my view and I’m trying to formulate what my thought here is. So just I hope I don’t step on my own toes or say something I’m not supposed to say. At some point, these biases become so entrenched that the only way to get rid of the bias is to create a law of protection around it and say, stop doing that.

Paul: You cannot do that because what you’re doing is having a police. What’s the word I’m looking for? It’s having a specific kind of impact on on the job. Yeah. So it’s having a disparate impact, even though you may not or you not let’s take the word out, may not you are not in your mind doing anything that would create a disparate impact.

Paul: But yeah, if we go back and we do the math and we look at who got interviewed, what their hair looked like and who didn’t get hired, you begin to be able to see a pattern exactly. That grows out of something that is could be an overt racism or it could just be some misunderstanding or something that’s built into you.

Halisi: Correct? Correct. Right. You’re correct. And in a lot of them, some might say, hey, wasn’t there already a law for this? For this particular.

Paul: Was there.

Halisi: Was there as far as race and national origin?

Paul: Well, yes.

Halisi: OK. And so some might take that take that perspective. And what they started to find was that the the courts were looking at hairstyles in a very narrow way. They weren’t tying it to race or national origin, essentially, because you could change your hairstyle. Right. It was not something that was that was specific to you. And so you could change it.

Halisi: Yeah. And so and so they a lot of times they would say, OK, well, that can’t fall under race or national origin protected category. Yeah.

Paul: Yeah. I mean, we could go down the rabbit hole. But I mean, I can remember kids that I grew up with in their hair was crazy. Yeah. And I don’t think that the you know, there was a certain subgroup of kids whose hair was crazy, got a whole lot of pressure to do something about it. And it was another subset, whether it was a conversation or.

Paul: Yeah. So the Crown Act is designed around these Crown acts. Do we have we don’t have anything in national legislation right now, do we? We don’t have anything do we have anything embodied in the, in the EEOC at the EEOC with this day?

Halisi: So it’s gone through the House OK. And it’s, it’s at the Senate. It has not passed the Senate at this point. And so other states are picking it up, OK. And so it’s currently about 1616 or 17 states have picked up the Crown Act, right. So yeah, so it’s not on the federal level specifically yet, but this is sufficiently a trend when you start to see a trend yeah.

Halisi: Yeah. Half the states are, are taking on this particular act.

Paul: So a quick H hour less than everybody. There can be laws about things like this or just about anything minimum wage that there can be a state law and federal law or there could be a state law and no federal law. There could be a federal law, no state law. The way that we look at these laws is that the one if there’s two in place, the one that treats the employee the best is the one that must be followed.

Paul: And then if there’s you know, if there’s only one law in one direction, that’s how that works. So interesting. Yeah. Anything that our listeners need to know about the Crown Act, I mean, is there anything that we want to it’s I think it’s about their appearance policies. Yeah. Being careful about saying how people are supposed to particularly cut their hair or hold their hair.

Halisi: Yeah. Yeah. Where their hair wear their hair. The associated like the biases that that you say that come along with that I think that when you’re talking about this particular law, some people they may ask, hey, does the various hair colors matter? Yeah. Or do wigs. Right. Wigs or purchased hair weaves of some sort. Are those associated with.

Paul: And what do you tell them.

Halisi: I tell them that the particular laws focus on natural hair. OK so when you purchase it, that is not necessarily coming out of your head. Right. And so the law is not particularly clear on say on excluding.

Paul: Because it can’t.

Halisi: Be because of. Yeah, because it can’t be. So so I would say just kind of perceive with caution.

Paul: So if I come back from if I come back from Jamaica and I got the whole cornrows and the beads and I got about a thousand different colors and the beads are hanging halfway down my back, my employer might be able to say something to me about that.

Halisi: Yeah, they might be to say something to you about that. Yeah.

Paul: All right. All right. Well, that’s interesting. And look, I appreciate you sharing the personal part of it. Yeah. I mean, it’s the stories are the best, and I just appreciate you sharing that.

Halisi: Yeah. I think it’s I think it’s help. I think it’s helpful. Yeah.

Paul: So this is coming out with an article that we’re writing on it because we always have to write some kind of compliance article and give as much direction as we can. So, you know, if, if you will have posted the article with this and, you know, give it a read. And if you have any questions, you know, you can always send them in.

Paul: We provide you know, we love to get your questions. So if you’ve heard this podcast at the end of it, when I’m done here, someone is going to say, Hey, if you’d like to send a question to Paul, you just send it to this address. If you have a question, please send it to us. Alison, thank you so much.

Halisi: Thank you for.

Voice Over: Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of What The Hell Just Happened? do Paul a favor; share this with your network. If you have an HR issue or a question, you’d like us to discuss on this show, send it to podcast@WTHjusthappened.com. For more HR advice and insights from Paul and his team of experts, you can also join the private Facebook group, HR Base Camp, or visit HRbasecamp.com. Make sure you tune in next week. And remember: better workplaces make better lives.

Jan 17, 2023

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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