New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the Create a Respectful and Open Workspace for Natural Hair (“CROWN”) Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees based upon hairstyle.

Effective immediately, the CROWN Act amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to define “race” as inclusive of “traits historically associated with race” such as hair texture and protective hairstyles. The Act expressly defines “protective hairstyles” as including but not limited to braids, locks, and twists. The Act is applicable not only to employers, but also to housing and public accommodations.

New Jersey is now the third state to enact legislation addressing racial discrimination on the basis of hairstyle. As we previously reported, California and New York have also enacted laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of hairstyle and appearance, while other jurisdictions (including Massachusetts, Michigan and the cities of Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio) have passed or are considering similar legislation. Therefore, while employers in New Jersey should review their current appearance and grooming policies to ensure compliance with the new law, employers nationwide may also want to consider reviewing their current policies and practices as well.