The CROWN Act – What Tennessee Employers Need to Know – Health and Safety

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Recently, Tennessee became one of more than a dozen states and cities to pass its version of the CROWN (Crowding a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) law. This article covers what Tennessee employers need to know about the new workplace law.

Brief History of the CROWN Act

Versions of the CROWN Act, which work to bring justice and inclusion to African Americans, outlaw discrimination based on hair texture. Versions of the CROWN Act may also prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle, specifically including styles such as afros, locs, twists, braids, bantu knots, and other styles that African Americans may wear, particularly as a connection to culture, religion, or history.

California was the first state to introduce the CROWN Act in July 2019, and in recent years several states and cities across the country have followed suit. The United States House of Representatives passed a federal version of the CROWN Act in March 2022, but that bill still needs Senate approval (an uncertainty given the current political climate) before it can become federal law.

Tennessee CROWN Act

The Tennessee version of the Crown Act prohibits employers from adopting a policy that prohibits employees from wearing their hair in braids, curls, twists, or in any other manner that is either (1) part of the cultural identification of the employee’s ethnic group or (2) a physical characteristic of the employee’s ethnic group. Employees may submit complaints of violations to the Tennessee Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

The requirements of the CROWN Act do not apply to policies affecting public safety workers when a hairstyle would prevent the worker from performing the essential functions of his or her job. Nor do these requirements apply to a policy that an employer must adopt to comply with industry safety standards or health or safety laws.

Next Steps

To comply with Tennessee’s CROWN Act, Tennessee employers may need to update their policies and manuals, particularly restrictive care requirements or guidelines. Likewise, employers in Tennessee may consider employee training on recognizing and eliminating discrimination based on hair. Employers unsure how to comply with the new law should consult an experienced employment lawyer.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the topic. In relation to your specific circumstances, you should seek advice from a specialist.

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