On July 3, California became the first state to pass legislation that bans discrimination based on natural hairstyles. Now, New York has followed, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signing of Assembly Bill 07797, which “prohibits race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles,” into law. This is a major step forward, considering the statistics: Black women are 50 percent more likely to be sent home or know a black woman sent home from work because of her hair.
This new law signed on July 12 solidifies the new guidelines introduced by the New York Commission on Human Rights back in February, which called for protection of citizens’ right to wear “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”
The bill is an amendment to New York state’s Human Rights Law and Dignity for All Students Act, which affirms that racial discrimination extends to “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
In California, the comparable bill is known as The CROWN Act (CROWN stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair, an initiative fronted by the National Urban League, Color of Change, Western Center on Law and Poverty, and Dove). It states that any workplace policy that prohibits hairstyles like “afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group.”
New York Assembly member Tremaine Wright, a black woman who has worn her hair natural for 17 years, says in a statement that she was “determined a legislative fix was in order” and wanted to see the CROWN Act carried out in her state. “I am beyond proud to have done so, and for New York to be the first state to have had this historic bill passed in both chambers,” she said.