Jan 26, 2023 - Politics

Minnesota Legislature passes "Crown Act" banning race-based hair discrimination

Illustration of Black women's faces, showing their natural hair.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Minnesota is set to join a growing number of states that ban racial discrimination related to hairstyles.

Driving the news: The DFL-majority Senate passed the so-called "Crown Act" 45-19 on Thursday. The bill, which cleared the House earlier this month, now heads to Gov. Tim Walz's desk.

Details: The legislation adds protections to the Minnesota Human Rights Act for "traits associated with race, including but not limited to texture and hair styles such as braids, locs, and twists."

  • Complaints over alleged discrimination are investigated by the state's Department of Human Rights. Violations can lead to settlements that can include policy changes or financial relief for the victim.

What they're saying: Supporters say such laws protect people of color from bias based on natural hairstyles at work and school.

  • Sen. Erin Maye Quade, one of three Black women serving in the Senate, recalled being told her natural curly hair was "a little bit unprofessional" during an otherwise positive performance review early in her career.
  • "I cried back at my desk, because it's just how my hair grows," the Apple Valley Democrat said during a debate on the Senate floor. "And even though I'm a 36-year-old woman who knows that the hair that grows out of my head is wonderful and beautiful... it still sits with me."

The other side: Critics have questioned whether the protections are necessary given that state law already prohibits discrimination based on race.

  • Human Rights commissioner Rebecca Lucero told legislators during a committee hearing that the bill's language is necessary to clarify that hair is covered by the law. That will give better guidance to judges ruling on discrimination cases, she said.

Of note: Employers could still ban certain hair styles for safety reasons, as long as those rules apply to all workers, Lucero said.

Between the lines: Supporters of banning hair discrimination have turned to states as efforts nationwide failed to gain traction in Congress.

What's next: Walz plans to sign the bill, a spokesperson told Axios.


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