15 June 2023

Michigan Passes CROWN Act

On June 15, 2023, Governor Whitmer signed into law the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, or CROWN Act.  The CROWN Act amends the definition of “race” in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to clarify that it includes “traits historically associated with race.”  These traits include hair texture and “protective hairstyles” like braids, locks, and twists.

The bill passed both the Michigan House and Senate with wide bipartisan support.

With the enactment of the CROWN Act, Michigan becomes the 20th state to adopt legislation that specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of hairstyles that are commonly associated with race.

Questions remain, however.  The CROWN Act is meant to protect hair texture and protective hairstyles, but the phrase “traits historically associated with race” leaves open the door to broad interpretation.  The Michigan Department of Civil Rights or a court could easily interpret this language to include other characteristics “historically associated with race” beyond hair texture and protective hairstyles.

Employers should update their policies accordingly and be on the lookout for workplace behaviors, like comments about an employee’s hairstyle, that could give rise a claim under the amended definition of “race.”

Please contact your Miller Johnson attorney if you have any questions.