August 04, 2022

Massachusetts Enacts CROWN Act, Prohibiting Discrimination Against Protective Hairstyles

You've Reached Your
Free Article Limit This Month
Register for free to get unlimited access to all OnPractice content.
Register Now

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has signed the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act) into law, making Massachusetts the 18th state to enact such a law. The CROWN Act expands the definition of discrimination based on race to prohibit discrimination based on natural and protective hair, including hair texture, hair type, hair length, and protective hairstyles. Signed on July 26, 2022, the CROWN Act went into effect immediately.

Employers should review their policies, handbooks, and training materials to ensure compliance with the new law.


After a Malden school barred twins Deanna and Mya Cook from participating or attending any school-sponsored events while wearing braids, Massachusetts in July 2019 enacted a law providing protection against the denial of educational opportunities to individuals with natural hair styles. The CROWN Act expands this protection to prohibit discrimination against natural hairstyles in employment.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar federal version of the statute in March 2022, and it is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

Statutory Effect

The CROWN Act adds the term "natural or protective hairstyle" to the definition of race in various laws, including the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act (G.L. c. 151B), to include "hair texture, hair type and hairstyles, which shall include, but not limited to, natural and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots, hair coverings, and other formations." The term is broadly defined and intended to protect a variety of hairstyles.

The law prohibits denial of employment and educational opportunities in places of work, schools, and school-related organizations on the basis of one's "natural or protective hairstyle." The law aims to eliminate discrimination against individuals from underrepresented groups based on stereotypes regarding natural hairstyles that are not related to the necessary qualifications for a position.

With the passing of the CROWN Act, it is unlawful for a Massachusetts employer to take an adverse employment action against an employee or applicant based on their natural hairstyle.

Similarly, employers that provide services in a place of public accommodation, as defined by state law, cannot refuse admission or service to an individual due to their natural or protective hairstyle.

Violations of the CROWN Act may expose employers to charges of discrimination or subsequent civil suits.

Next Steps

Employers should review existing dress codes, grooming policies, handbooks, and training materials that require employees to wear their hair in a particular manner. Employers also should consider incorporating training for employees and managers to help ensure compliance.

Jackson Lewis attorneys will continue to monitor future CROWN Act developments, including any rules or regulations promulgated by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Employers with questions regarding the CROWN Act or seeking clarification on their existing policies should contact a Jackson Lewis attorney.

(Summer Associate Deanna Petion contributed to this article.)

©2022 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Focused on labor and employment law since 1958, Jackson Lewis P.C.'s 950+ attorneys located in major cities nationwide consistently identify and respond to new ways workplace law intersects business. We help employers develop proactive strategies, strong policies and business-oriented solutions to cultivate high-functioning workforces that are engaged, stable and diverse, and share our clients' goals to emphasize inclusivity and respect for the contribution of every employee. For more information, visit

ALM expressly disclaims any express or implied warranty regarding the OnPractice Content, including any implied warranty that the OnPractice Content is accurate, has been corrected or is otherwise free from errors.

More From Jackson Lewis P.C.

Biden Administration Clarifies That Government Will Not Enforce Federal Contractor COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

By Patricia Anderson Pryor Jackson Lewis P.C. September 21 , 2022

In a statement on its website, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has indicated that, until further notice, the government will not enforce any part (not just the COVID-19 vaccine mandate portion) of Executive Order 14042 (EO 14042).

No More COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for New York City's Private Sector

By Richard I. Greenberg Jackson Lewis P.C. September 21 , 2022

Beginning November 1, 2022, New York City private sector employees will no longer be subject to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

Virginia Education Department Releases New Model Policies on Treatment of Student Gender Identity

By Susan D. Friedfel Jackson Lewis P.C. September 21 , 2022

The Virginia Department of Education issued new 2022 Model Policies pursuant to Virginia School Code § 22.1-23.3 that reverse the 2021 Model Policies.

More From Litigation

DOJ Announces New Policies for Tackling Corporate Crime: Get Ready for Monitorships

By Kyle R. Freeny Greenberg Traurig September 19 , 2022

Since the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced new, heightened policies for addressing corporate crime at the end of 2021, companies have been waiting to see how the DOJ will implement those policies.

Claimants Seeking to Enforce English Judgments in the UAE Now Have Cause to Celebrate

By Elizabeth Fox Greenberg Traurig September 16 , 2022

On 13 September 2022, the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Justice issued a letter, signed and sealed by the Director of the International Cooperation Department, to the Director General of the Dubai Courts which effectively directs the UAE courts to enforce judgments and orders rendered by the English courts (the Directive).

DOJ Revamps Corporate Criminal Enforcement Policies with Continued Emphasis on Compliance

By Justin P. Murphy McDermott Will & Emery September 16 , 2022

At a September 15, 2022, speech at New York University School of Law, US Deputy Attorney General (Deputy AG) Lisa Monaco announced several new policies intended to further the aggressive stance the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken under the Biden administration to corporate criminal enforcement.

Featured Stories