The General Assembly passed and the Governor recently signed into law Act 514, known as the Crown Act, an acronym for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” This new law modifies a variety of Arkansas laws, including the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, and bans “hair” discrimination. Going forward, race and national origin discrimination under the ACRA (which covers any business with 9 or more employees) will include those instances when an applicant or employee is discriminated against due to his or her “natural, protective, or cultural hairstyle,” with that phrase including “afros, dreadlocks, twists, locs, braids, cornrow braids, Bantu knots, curls, and hair styled to protect hair texture or for cultural significance.”
Arkansas is not alone in passing this legislation. Over 20 other states have passed similar legislation.
Where will this issue pop up? Most likely when an employer has some type of formal or informal “appearance” standard. Employers have generally started to move away from appearance/dress codes, but if you have one, understand that a person’s “natural, protective, or cultural hairstyle” is now off-limits and should not be considered in any employment-related context.