California is set to become the first U.S. state to enact a law banning the workplace discrimination of natural hairstyles worn by black people.
The bill, known as the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, unanimously passed California’s Assembly with a 69–0 vote on Thursday.
“While we got no ‘No’ votes, there were some people who chose to abstain,” Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) told National Public Radio (NPR). “I have no idea why they abstained.”
It also passed California’s Senate in April and is awaiting Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.
The legislation would prohibit employers and schools from taking punitive actions, like firing or demoting, against people who wear “afros, braids, locks, and twists.”
“The history of our nation is riddled with laws and societal norms that equated ‘blackness,’ and the associated physical traits, for example, dark skin, kinky and curly hair to a badge of inferiority,” the bill’s text states.
“Hair remains a rampant source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences, especially for black individuals,” the bill continued.
New York City issued similar guidelines back in February intending to ban discrimination on natural styles not just in workplaces, but in public spaces such as schools, libraries, gyms, and nightclubs.
“Bans or restrictions on natural hair or hairstyles associated with black people are often rooted in white standards of appearance and perpetuate racist stereotypes that black hairstyles are unprofessional,” according to the statement from the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
“Such policies exacerbate anti-black bias in employment, at school, while playing sports, and in other areas of daily living,” the statement added.