Minnesota is poised to join 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 would come in the form of brief but important amendments to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), seeks to protect individuals from discrimination due to their natural hair.
The Minnesota House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would amend the MHRA to define "race" as including "traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and hair styles such as braids, locks and twists." (House File 37, amending Minnesota Statute Section 363A.03, subd. 36a.) The amendment would provide explicit protection from any adverse employment action (i.e., discipline, failure to promote, termination, harassment, etc.) due to any employee's hair texture or style associated with the person's race.
In earlier legislative sessions the bill had been passed by the House of Representatives, but failed to garner enough support in the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate. With a shift in control of the Minnesota Senate, the bill now appears to be swiftly moving through the chamber. We expect that the Senate will pass the amendment and that Governor Walz will sign it into law.
Given that the CROWN Act will likely soon be law in Minnesota, employers should review their policies to ensure they are broad enough to prohibit discrimination based on traits associated with race, such as natural hair and hair styles, including braids, locks, and twists. Employers should also train their managers and human resources staff on these policies.
We are monitoring developments and will provide updates.
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