BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Louisiana Senate unanimously voted to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against someone because of their hairstyle, a measure striking at tactics that have targeted Black people who wear their hair naturally.
Senate Bill 61, also known as the CROWN Act, would expand Louisiana’s existing anti-discrimination law, which bars employers from discriminatory practices based on a worker’s race, religion, sex, or national origin. Senators Troy Carter, Regina Barrow, and Jay Luneau are sponsors of the bill.
The legislation would spell out that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race includes hair texture and hairstyles such as braids, twists, and natural hair.
“For us, hair is a form of expression,” said Joshua White, a Baton Rouge barber.
CROWN is an acronym that stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair.”
A 2019 survey by Dove and the CROWN Coalition talked to 2000 women both black and white. It found that 80% had to change their hair to fit in at work.
“There have been instances where I decided to wear a wig or even relax my hair to be straight to not be perceived as unprofessional in a workplace,” said Sonia Daniels, Ph. D.
So far, 10 states have made the CROWN Act law. Daniels is pushing for Louisiana to become to the next state to approve it and says wearing locs or any other form of your hair shouldn’t determine how qualified someone is for a job.
“I’m hopeful that it’s going to open conversations to have those uncomfortable talks about how we deem professionalism or the ideologies of professionalism,” said Daniels.
Eugene Collins is the President of the Baton Rouge Chapter of the NAACP. He said choosing to wear your hair a certain way has cultural meaning and a deeper purpose than what most realize.
His hope is that this bill will remove one more barrier for people looking for opportunities.
“I think having the lawmakers remove such standards that are as an option, I think those things settle in overtime that when enough of these things are put together will create systemic change. So, I think this is a small step forward,” said Collins.
The Senate’s 36-0 vote Monday sent the measure to the House for debate. If passed there, it would take effect Aug. 1.
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