Diversity & Inclusion

Kansas City Passes CROWN Act to Protect Natural Hair Types

Kansas City, Missouri, is the latest jurisdiction to implement a “CROWN Act” ordinance, prohibiting discrimination based on natural hair types and hairstyles commonly associated with race and racial identity.

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What Kansas City’s Ordinance Says

Ordinance 200837, known as the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act,” took effect on November 1. The ordinance modifies the definition of race to include “traits historically associated with race.” Such traits include but aren’t limited to braids, locks, twists, afros, and hair texture.

The ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, brokerage services, commercial real estate loans, public accommodations, and other related contexts. As a result, Kansas City businesses and employers that maintain appearance policies should carefully review any restrictions or other consequences placed on hairstyle and work with counsel to ensure compliance with the new ordinance.

Implications for Companies Elsewhere

Businesses and employers operating in other jurisdictions should also be mindful of state and federal initiatives to implement similar laws across the country. For instance, a similar CROWN Act was introduced in Missouri’s neighboring state of Kansas (Senate Bill 250) this year to prohibit discrimination based on protective hairstyles, though it failed to pass.

Efforts are underway on the national level as well with House Bill 5309, a federal CROWN Act. If passed, the law would prohibit discrimination based on natural hairstyles or hair textures in employment, education, public accommodations, and housing. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on September 21 and is now with the Senate.

Ida Shafaie and Travis Kearbey are attorneys with Armstrong Teasdale LLP in St. Louis. Ramona Palmer-Eason is an attorney with Armstrong Teasdale LLP in Kansas City. They can be reached at ishafaie@atllp.com, rpalmereason@atllp.com, and tkearbey@atllp.com, respectively.