What is the CROWN Act?

New Jersey has recently enacted the CROWN Act which prohibits discrimination based on hair style and hair texture. Sadly, one of the more disturbing stories involving hairstyle discrimination in recent years occurred at Buena Regional High School in Buena, New Jersey, where a referee forced a high school student to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a wrestling match. In doing so, the referee argued that the student’s hair did not comply with regulations.

However, New Jersey recently became the third in the country to ban discrimination based on hair styles that are associated with a particular race. The creation of legislation to protect Black individuals from natural hair discrimination is long overdue. If you believe that you have been discriminated against  due to having a protected hairstyle that is associated with your race, you may have a valid claim for damages. To learn more about your legal options, contact Trabosh Employment Law in Cherry Hill today to schedule a free consultation.

The New Jersey CROWN Act

Also known as the “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act,” the CROWN Act amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to define “race” as inclusive of “traits historically associated with race” such as hair texture and protective hairstyles. The Act expressly defines “protective hairstyles” as including but not limited to braids, locks, and twists. The new law makes it illegal for a person to be discriminated against based on these characteristics in school, at work, or in places of public accommodation. The CROWN Act was signed last December and is now in effect.

New Jersey was the third state to pass a version of the CROWN Act after California and New York. Since its introduction into New Jersey, 12 other states have put forth their own versions of the CROWN Act for legislation.

Penalties for Violating the CROWN Act

The consequences for violating the CROWN Act in New Jersey are serious. Even a first-time offense can garner a fine up to $10,000. A second violation of the law within five years can result in a fine up to $25,000, and a third or subsequent violations within seven years elevates the fine up to $50,000. If your rights under the CROWN Act have been violated, you can also pursue legal action under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

It is important to know that an employer’s grooming policies cannot expressly prohibit twists, dreadlocks, braids, cornrows, Afros, Bantu knots, or fades. Even if an employer has a facially neutral grooming policy that requires an employee to maintain a hairstyle that is “neat” or “professional,” if it is enforced selectively against employees with protected hairstyles, it may still be a violation of the CROWN Act. In addition, employers cannot use the excuse that protected hairstyles violate their idea of a corporate image or go against customer preference or expectations in order to force an employee to change a hairstyle that is protected under the CROWN Act and/or the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Call or Contact the Office Today

If you believe that your rights under the CROWN Act have been violated, talk to an experienced discrimination attorney about your case today. Call the office or contact Trabosh Employment Law to set up a free consultation.

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