Since 2019, numerous state legislatures and municipalities have enacted forms of CROWN Act legislation. CROWN is an anti-discrimination principle that stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” and variations of the CROWN Act have been introduced to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyles or hair textures historically associated with a particular race or natural origin. More specifically in the employment context, CROWN Act legislation makes it unlawful for any covered employer to take any adverse employment action against an employee or candidate because of the individual’s hair texture or hairstyle.
To date, there is no Florida state or federal law enacting the CROWN Act. However, local ordinances that seemingly mimic the CROWN Act have successfully passed in the City of Miami Beach and in Broward County.
On December 1, 2020, the Broward County Commission unanimously amended its Human Rights Ordinance to include hairstyles. Under Broward County’s Human Rights Ordinance, it is a discriminatory practice to “(1) fail or refuse to hire, to discharge, or to otherwise discriminate against an individual, with respect to compensation or the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of a discriminatory classification; or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify an employee in a way that would deprive or tend to deprive an individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect the status of an employee because of a discriminatory classification.” “Race” includes traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles such as braids, locs, and twists. The ordinance applies to most employers with five or more employees.
In October 2022, the Miami Beach City Commission unanimously voted to prohibit discriminatory practices in housing, employment, public services, funding, or use of city facilities based on the texture or style of a person’s hair. The ordinance expanded the City of Miami Beach’s existing human rights ordinance and, like the Broward County ordinance, applies to most employers with five or more employees. The ordinance prohibits discriminatory practices based on an individual’s hair texture and/or hairstyle and defines “hair texture and/or hairstyle” as “an individual’s hair texture or hairstyle, if that hair texture or hairstyle is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin (including a hairstyle in which hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, [locs], cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros).” The ordinance states that it shall not limit the ability of an employer to “establish, continue, or enforce a hair texture and/or hairstyle related workplace safety policy or rule, so long as there is no disparate treatment regarding such workplace safety policy or rule.” Further, the ordinance allows an employer to discharge, discipline, or fail or refuse to hire an individual if the employer determines that such individual’s hair texture and/or hairstyle prevents or impedes his or her ability to appropriately wear any health or safety equipment or impairs his or her ability to safely engage in the particular job or occupation at issue. The ordinance also states that a covered employer may hire and employ individuals on the basis of their “actual or perceived classification category in those certain instances where such actual or perceived classification category is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise.” However, the ordinance does not specify in which situations this “bona fide occupational qualification” exception would apply to hairstyle and/or hair texture.
Both ordinances allow aggrieved employees to bring claims before local administrative bodies, and they have harsh penalties, particularly for smaller employers. Covered employers should ensure that employee handbooks, training materials, antidiscrimination policies, and any policies concerning dress codes or grooming comply with these ordinances.