Minnesota House passes ‘Crown Act’ hair discrimination bill

On Monday, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation, which received bipartisan support, that would make it illegal to discriminate against a person because of how their hair is styled.

The bill is called the “Crown Act,” an acronym standing for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

The Crown Act would add hair texture as part of a provision in the Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibiting racial discrimination in housing, employment, and education as well as other areas. Rep. Esther Agbaje, from Minneapolis, authored the bill and said the legislation would add specific language regarding hair-based discrimination to make it easier for judges who have discrimination cases before them.

She added that it would also streamline the complaint process. “At the heart of this bill is the ability to allow more people to show up as their authentic selves in school or in the workplace without fear of repercussions because of their hair,” she said on the House floor prior to the vote. 

The measure passed the House with a vote of 104-25. Agbaje recalled an incident when an employer was banning hairstyles most frequently worn by black employees including afros, braids, and dreadlocks.

The employer then would fire employees who refused to cut their hair once the policy was implemented. Agbaje said the bill would stop those incidents while additionally removing the stress felt by black employees and students to conform to their environments by chemically straightening their hair.

Fourteen states have so far enacted similar legislation banning hair discrimination. On the federal level, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, joined four black congresswomen last year in reintroducing the legislation in the House as well as sending a letter to Vice President Kamala Harris requesting her support. Since then, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker has also introduced a companion bill in the Senate. 




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