As the CROWN Act Gains Momentum in Texas, Employers Should Prepare

May 3, 2023 | Insights

By Dawn S. Holiday

On April 13, 2023, the Texas House of Representatives passed House Bill 567, known as the Texas CROWN Act, that would prohibit race-based discrimination in schools, workplaces, and housing. The Texas legislation is a state version of the CROWN Act, an acronym for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” a law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles, including braids, locks, twists, bantu knots, Afros, and cornrows.

Summary of the Texas CROWN Act

The summary of HB 567(the “bill”) states that it relates to discrimination on the basis of hair texture or protective hairstyle associated with race. Specifically, HB 567 would add provisions to the education, labor, and property codes in Texas that prohibit discrimination based on kinky, curly, or tightly coiled hair textures and protective hairstyles commonly and historically associated with race. The bill acknowledges the need for such legislation because due to individuals choosing to wear natural hairstyles, “individuals have been denied the right to attend or graduate from school, certain employment opportunities, and housing.” The bill further states, “Individuals should not be required to put chemicals in their hair to change its texture or appearance or otherwise divest themselves of their cultural identity in order to adapt or be seen as deserving of opportunities in schools or the workplace or for housing.” The bill seeks to combat race-based hair discrimination by prohibiting dress or grooming policies that discriminate against hair texture or protective hairstyles and applies to public school districts, public institutions of higher education, employers, labor unions, and employment agencies, and discriminatory housing practices. The bill specifically defines the term “protective hairstyle” to include braids, locks, or twists. The proposed effective date of the bill is September 1, 2023.

The Future of CROWN Act Legislation in Texas and Beyond

The bill received wide support in the Texas House, passing with a 143-5 vote. An identical Senate bill is pending in the Senate State Affairs Committee but has not yet been set for hearing. However, passing of the bill in the Senate is promising. In June 2022, Austin became the first city in Texas to pass CROWN Act legislation by amending the Austin City Code to add “protective hairstyles” to the city’s “Discriminatory Employment Practices” in housing, public accommodations, and employment.

CROWN Act legislation has already been enacted in 20 states, with over 40 local governments passing versions of CROWN Act legislation since 2019. There are currently 24 states with CROWN Act legislation filed or pre-filed.

Federally, on March 18, 2022, the CROWN Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on a vote of 235-189. On December 14, 2022, CROWN Act did not pass the U.S. Senate and will need to be re-introduced during the 2023 legislative session.

What Employers Should Do Now

While state versions of the legislation are similar in their prohibition of race-based hair discrimination, the versions are not identical. For employers with employees in locales where CROWN Act laws have been enacted, employers should carefully review employee handbooks, training materials, dress codes and grooming policies to ensure compliance with governing laws. Employers also should implement anti-discrimination training for managers and supervisors regarding the implications and effects of CROWN Act legislation. Even in states where no legislation has yet been enacted, employers should do a similar review of current policies, procedures, and trainings to ensure that current and prospective employees are not treated differently simply because of the texture of their hair or the cultural hairstyle they choose to wear.

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For more information on the Texas CROWN Act, please contact Dawn S. Holiday or a member of the Labor and Employment practice.

Meet Dawn

Dawn S. Holiday focuses on labor and employment law litigation, representing corporations in disputes involving discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, non-competition, trade secret and workplace investigation claims. Dawn has been recognized among Thomson Reuters’ “Super Lawyers – Rising Stars,” “Who’s Who in Black Houston,” the National Bar Association’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and Lawdragon’s “500 Leading U.S. Corporate Employment Lawyers.” Dawn has also been recognized among the National Black Lawyers “Top 100” for three consecutive years.

Outside of her law practice, through various organizations, Dawn is on mission to advance equality for women and underrepresented attorneys in the legal profession. She is highly regarded and has an outstanding reputation amongst her peers, as well as the recipient of many prestigious awards and recognitions for her legal expertise, leadership and community service.