CROWN Act Legislation on the Verge of Passage in St. Louis City & County

In the next couple of weeks, St. Louis City and County are expected to pass legislation that will prohibit discrimination in employment and housing decisions based upon an individual’s hairstyle, protective hair, or natural or cultural hair texture. This type of form legislation, spearheaded by an anti-discrimination coalition including the Dove consumer product company and the National Urban League, is better known around the United States as the “CROWN Act.”

The CROWN Act concept was created in 2019 by the CROWN Coalition to prohibit discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools. Currently, seven states and roughly 16 cities, including Kansas City, Missouri, have passed CROWN Act laws. In Missouri, the Special House Committee on Urban Issues voted in March to pass the Missouri CROWN Act, a bill that would ban discrimination on the basis of hair texture and protective hairstyles in state-funded schools. Last year, a different version of the CROWN Act in Missouri passed the Missouri House, but it failed in the Senate.

Following the trend, St. Louis City’s Board of Aldermen passed their version of the CROWN Act, Board Bill 222, on April 16, 2021. The bill will prohibit discrimination in employment decisions including, hiring, advancement, and compensation, as well as prohibit discrimination in housing practices. Specifically, the bill will prohibit employers from failing or refusing to hire or to discharge individuals because of their hairstyle or natural hair. Labor organizations will be prevented from excluding or expelling any applicant or member because of their hairstyle or natural hair. And, employment agencies will be prohibited from refusing to refer for employment any individual for the same reasons. Furthermore, the City’s bill will prevent employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies from advertising or circulating any statement, which, directly or indirectly, expresses any preference or discrimination because of protective hair or cultural hair texture or style. With respect to housing or realty, real estate brokers, salespeople, banking or financing institution personnel, sellers, and others may not discriminate against another person based on their hair style or texture.

St. Louis County introduced their version of the CROWN Act, Bill 76, on April 6, 2021. Bill 76 is nearly identical to the City’s bill. Bill 76 also prohibits discriminatory practices by employers, brokers, financing institutions, and real estate sale or rental professionals. In contrast, Bill 76 does not mention employment agencies or labor organizations and provides a more detailed definition of protective hair, natural, and cultural hair textures and styles. The bill defines this term as “hairstyles and hair textures most commonly associated with race, including, without limitation, braids, cornrows, locs, Bantu knots, Afros, and twists, whether or not hair extensions or treatments are used to create or maintain any such hairstyle, and whether or not the hairstyle is adorned by hair ornaments, beads or headwraps.” Unlike the City’s bill, Bill 76 makes it a hate crime to knowingly vandalize or deface certain property because of a person’s hairstyle or protective or natural hair texture or style.

Lewis Rice Labor and Employment attorneys are knowledgeable in all aspects of creating and revising employee policies and procedures. If you have questions about the new Act(s), would like more information on the anticipated impact of the Act(s), or would like assistance in adopting policies or practices in order to comply with the Act(s), please contact one of the authors above.