Earlier this month, the Connecticut General Assembly gave final approval to a bill that seeks to right some of these historical wrongs by making it illegal to discriminate in employment on the basis of a hairstyle related to the person’s race. Governor Lamont recently signed the measure and the new law goes into immediate effect.
House Bill 6515 amends the state’s anti-discrimination laws to define race as being “inclusive of ethnic traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
The bill goes on to define “protective hairstyles” as including, but not limited to, “wigs, headwraps and hairstyles such as individual braids, cornrows, locs, twists, Bantu knots, afros and afro puffs.”
With its passage, Connecticut now joins several other states that have passed some form of what has been known as the “CROWN Act”.
For employers, there are two key takeaways. First, anti-discrimination policies and dress codes/grooming policies should be updated immediately to address this new law. Outright bans on, for example, dreadlocks may be challenged under this new law.
Employers should also inform hiring managers and other supervisors of the new law to ensure compliance.
Left unanswered by this new law is whether are there are any “ethnic traits historically associated with race” that will be claimed in the future. The new law leaves room for interpretation and employers should be mindful of this language as the law develops.
For assistance updating policies or handbooks, be sure to reach out to your counsel, or contact any Shipman lawyer in the Employment and Labor practice group.