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Florida CROWN Act Gets Senate Panel Backing As Efforts To Ban Hair Discrimination Nationwide Amp Up

Sen. Randolph Bracy wants to end racial discrimination based on the hairstyles. His Senate bill 566, dubbed the "C.R.O.W.N. (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act,"  prohibits housing, workforce and education discrimination against people wearing protective hairstyle like braids, dreadlocks and twists.

“A lot of people that aren’t aware of what people of color...they don’t particularly women realize the length that they go through to prepare for a corporate environment. They fear backlash if they wear their hair in its natural state,” Bracy said. His plan is to add the protection language to the state's Fair Housing and Civil Rights laws. 

A recent study by Dove says black women are 80% more likely to change their natural hair to conform to social norms or expectations at work.

Catherine Clark is Ms. Corporate America 2019. The entrepreneur says decisions regarding hair for women of color are not just left up to the individual. Sometimes, it's a family conversation.

“My family was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to advance in the workplace or my career of choice. It was also one of the reasons I contemplated competing in the Ms. Corporate America pageant,” she says.

Others want Bracy to go further with his bill. Shirley Eady owns Signature Hair Design Academy in Jacksonville and she'd like to see the proposal incorporate language regarding the “Hair Tax”. It's an additional charge  stylists add to the bill due to hair texture, thickness and/or length.

“People have a tendency to charge people who have natural hair a little bit more because they don’t know how to care for natural hair. I think this will cause people to want to learn how to care for natural hair,” Eady said.

Bracy says the "hair tax" issue is beyond the scope of his bill. He says he's never heard of it before but will look into it. 

The Florida Senate Community Affairs Committee passed the CROWN Act favorably, despite concerns the bill might raise constitutional issues. Bracy says he is committed to addressing those issues prior to the next committee stops.

California became the first state to pass the "Crown Act" last year. New York and New Jersey have followed suit, and the bill has been filed in 13 other states including Florida. It was a response to a social media video that went viral showing a high school wrestler's hair being forcibly cut by a referee during a match. 

The student was told he had to either cut his hair or forfeit his match. He elected to have his locks cut, and went on to win his match.