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Can employees wear their hair as they please?

On Behalf of | Jul 27, 2023 | Employment Law |

As an employer, you may have a reason to want your employees to wear their hair a certain way. For example, if they are working on a factory line, you may insist they tie it up for safety reasons. You may want all your restaurant servers to wear their hair a certain way to present a uniform image.

Before you start giving orders or writing dress codes that mention hair, you need to understand what California law says on the matter.


In 2019, the state passed the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act. It was only the second state to pass such a law, but others have since followed.

For years, workers (especially Black women) had been unhappy that some employers expected them to wear their hair in ways that just weren’t natural for their hair type. What’s more, their employers prohibited them from wearing their hair in ways that were natural for their race or culture.

The law makes it clear that employers cannot mandate that employees wear their hair straight when their hair is not naturally straight. They cannot forbid them from using braids or corn rows or from having an Afro if that is a natural way for people of their race or culture to wear their hair.

You can still set some guidelines about hair as an employer, but you need to be sure you are not inadvertently discriminating against a particular race or culture in the process. If you are unsure about how to do that, it may be wise to seek legal guidance to learn more.