CROWN Act Makes Hair Discrimination Illegal in Minnesota

Posted by Sam Kramer

Minnesota’s legislative session is in full swing, with many new employment law proposals under consideration. One exciting development so far has been the passage of the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, which Governor Tim Walz signed into law on January 31, 2023. The CROWN Act is similar to legislation that has passed in more than a dozen other states and is currently under consideration at the federal level. It explicitly acknowledges that race discrimination includes discrimination on the basis or certain traits associated with race, including hair texture and hairstyles such as braids, locs, and twists.

Once the law is officially in effect on August 1, 2023, it will be against the law in Minnesota to discriminate against somebody because of their hair texture or hairstyle in the areas of employment, real estate, public accommodations, public services, education, lending, and business relationships, all of which are covered by the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). This is likely to have the greatest impact on workers, who can no longer be subject to discriminatory dress codes or grooming policies that prohibit hairstyles that are associated with certain racial groups. For example, if an employer prohibits its employees from showing up to work with braids, or refuses to hire somebody because they have locs, they will have violated the MHRA.

The language of the new law makes it clear that “traits associate with race” are not just limited to hair texture and hairstyles, but it remains to be seen just how broadly the courts will interpret this language. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights will likely issue guidance in the coming months to provide its interpretation of the term, but it will take time for the courts to interpret the new law based on real-world cases.

Although the full breadth of this change to the law remains to be seen, it is undoubtedly a positive step toward protecting Minnesotans from unlawful discrimination. If your rights have been violated under the MHRA—either because of a trait associated with race or some other protected characteristic such as gender, disability status, or ethnicity—the law gives you remedies. People who are discriminated against or retaliated against for reporting discrimination can seek accountability and compensation through both the courts and administrative agencies. If you prove your claim under the MHRA, you are entitled to damages for lost wages and any other harms caused by the discrimination, including emotional distress.

The civil rights lawyers at the Minneapolis Office of MacDonald Hoague & Bayless fight for people around Minnesota who have been discriminated or retaliated against in the workplace, at school, or as consumers. We get compensation for our clients and hold institutions accountable when they violate the MHRA and other anti-discrimination laws. If you have been discriminated against, please call our office at 612.349.2720 to discuss your case.

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