The Minnesota legislature recently passed a bill that will prohibit discrimination against a person based on hair texture and hair styles that are associated with race. Approximately 20 states have passed similar measures, commonly referred to as “CROWN Acts,” which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” Supporters of CROWN Acts say such laws protect people of color from discrimination based on natural hairstyles at work and school.
The Minnesota CROWN Act is a short amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”). The bill adds a subdivision to the MHRA (Minn. Stat. § 363A.03, subd. 36a), stating, “’Race’ is inclusive of traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and hair styles such as braids, locs, and twists.” While the MHRA already prohibits race discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas, the CROWN Act makes it explicit that hair texture and certain hair styles associated with race are protected. The Act also adds protection for “traits associated with race” but does not provide examples of such traits aside from hair texture and certain hair styles. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights may later issue guidance providing further interpretation of the statute. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is expected to sign the CROWN Act into law.
Winthrop & Weinstine continues to monitor the situation and will provide updates if further guidance is published. For now, Minnesota employers should review their employment policies, such as dress codes, to ensure that their policies do not prohibit hairstyles that are protected by the new CROWN Act, as well as communicate the new protections in Minnesota law to supervisors or managers that enforce such policies. For more information, please feel free to reach out to any member of our Employment team.