On December 19, 2019, New Jersey enacted legislation amending the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) to add a definition for “Race” - which has always been a protected category under the NJLAD – and for the term “Protective hairstyle.”  The Amendment, referred to as the “CROWN Act” (short for “Create a Respectful and Open Workspace for Natural Hair Act”), amends the NJLAD to add the following to the statute’s list of definitions:

“Race” is inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.

“Protective hair styles” includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.

The Amendment, which became effective immediately upon signing, essentially codifies portions of enforcement guidance (“Guidance”) issued earlier this year by the state’s Division on Civil Rights, about which we previously wrote. The Guidance, which reflects the DCR’s interpretation of the NJLAD, but is not statutory, provides directives to employers that are not in the Amendment, but which will now carry more weight because of it.  Of note, although the Amendment specifically includes hairstyles associated with Black persons in the definition of “protective hair styles,” the Guidance also includes, hairstyles associated with particular religions such as payot (sidelocks) worn by Orthodox Jewish men and Sikh persons who wear uncut hair.

With the Amendment, New Jersey becomes the third state (following California and New York) to ban discrimination based on hair and hairstyles.  Some cities, including New York City and Cincinnati, have also enacted laws prohibiting hair-based discrimination. Other states are also considering similar legislation. Given this trend, all employers – not just those in New Jersey and other locales with such laws on the books – should consider reviewing their workplace grooming and appearance policies and, in particular, their enforcement of such policies, to confirm that they are applied in a nondiscriminatory manner.

Back to Health Law Advisor Blog

Search This Blog

Blog Editors


Related Services



Jump to Page


Sign up to receive an email notification when new Health Law Advisor posts are published:

Privacy Preference Center

When you visit any website, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalized web experience. Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.

Performance Cookies

These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.