Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
Minnesota has now joined at least 19 other states in enacting a CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” The Act, which in Minnesota has come in the form of brief but important amendments to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), protects individuals from discrimination due to their natural hair.
The Minnesota CROWN Act amends the MHRA to define “race” as including “traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and hair styles such as braids, locs and twists.” Minnesota Statute Section 363A.03, subd. 36a. The amendment provides explicit protection from any adverse employment action (discipline, failure to promote, termination, harassment, etc.) due to an employee’s hair texture or style associated with the person’s race.
In tandem with Governor Tim Walz’s signing the CROWN Act into law, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights issued a fact sheet, “Preventing Hair Discrimination,” explaining when the law applies and providing examples of hair discrimination that would violate the CROWN Act. In the fact sheet, the Department explains that the CROWN Act prohibits hair discrimination not only in employment, but also in education, housing, and a variety of other settings—such as restaurants, banks, schools, and stores—where a person is purchasing goods or services. The Department’s examples of unlawful hair discrimination include discharging an employee for wearing hair braids, forcing a student to shave their head, or denying a person entry to a restaurant because of the way they braid or twist their hair.
With the CROWN Act now law in Minnesota, employers should review their policies to ensure they are broad enough to prohibit discrimination based on traits associated with race. Employers should also train their managers and human resources staff on these policies.