There has been a major push across the country to provide legal protections to employees who wear natural and ethnic hairstyles. According to reporting from Bloomberg Law, 18 states and one U.S. territory have adopted Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair laws.
As of now, Pennsylvania is not one of these states. Still, Philadelphia and Pittsburg have their own CROWN laws in place, with other municipalities currently contemplating legal protections for ethnic and natural hairstyles.
What does a CROWN law do?
As most employers know, it is against both state and federal law to discriminate against workers because of protected characteristics, such as race or ethnicity. CROWN laws expressly prohibit taking adverse employment action against applicants, employees and former employees because of their natural or ethnicity-associated hairstyles.
Can hair discrimination be off-limits?
Even though Pennsylvania does not have a statewide CROWN law, treating employees differently because of their hairstyles might desperately affect minority workers. As such, evidence of mistreatment because of an employee’s hair might be sufficient to support a discrimination complaint. This is true despite the absence of a statewide CROWN law in Pennsylvania.
How can employers stay out of trouble?
Discrimination complaints can be expensive to defend. They also can cause company morale to plummet. As a result, diligent employers should try to minimize their exposure. Treating all employees equally, regardless of race and ethnicity, is an effective strategy.
Ultimately, if Pennsylvania eventually enacts a CROWN law, which some legal prognosticators expect, employers may need to schedule training sessions to ensure managers and others do not run afoul of it.