MONTCLAIR, NJ - New Jersey has become the third state in the nation to ban discrimination based on the style of one's hair, under a bill co-sponsored by Senator Nia Gill.

In December of 2018, New Jersey made national news after a white referee forced a black high school student to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a wrestling match.

The response along with photos of a woman cutting his hair sparked national outrage, and subsequent legislation. Governor Phil Murphy has now signed a law banning discrimination based on hairstyles associated with race. 

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Entitled “Create a Respectful and Open Workspace for Natural Hair Act” or CROWN Act, the NJ legislation was sponsored by Senator Sandra B. Cunningham, Senator Nia Gill and Senator Shirley Turner.

This week, Senator Gill tweeted the following quote and tweet, "I am proud to be a sponsor of the CROWN act to protect our constitutional right to not be discriminated against because of our hair." 

“Hair discrimination has gone on for centuries and should have been made illegal long ago,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Still, it is refreshing to see states around the country moving legislation to write it into our discrimination laws. It’s a shame it even has to be written, but no one’s ability to progress in society should be contingent on how they choose to wear their hair.”

The bill, S-3945, prohibits discrimination on the basis of hair style, type or texture under the Law Against Discrimination. It would amend the Law Against Discrimination so the term “race” includes traits historically associated with race. This would include but would not be limited to hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles.

“No one should be discriminated against and this bill protects the civil rights of all peoples,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic).

Under the bill, the term protective hairstyles would include, but would not be limited to, braids, locks and twists. The bill is modeled after California’s CROWN Act, passed last year.

“In the last few years, we have seen several cases in New Jersey and around the country of children being told to leave school, or being denied participation in extracurricular activities because of how they choose to wear their hair,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “Policies like this send a harmful and shameful message to students that embracing their culture and expressing that through their hairstyle is somehow unacceptable. Policies rooted in hair discrimination have no place in our schools or our workplaces.”

In July of 2019, the state of California became the first state to sponsor legislation to ban discrimination against black students and employees over their natural hairstyles.

The authors of this law say men and women with kinky, braided, dreadlocked and curly hair are sometimes subject to unequal treatment, and can even be viewed as inferior. 

Dove recently conducted a study that says that black women are 80% more likely to change their natural hair to conform to social norms or expectations at work.

New York became the second state to sign this bill into law. 

The NJ law makes it illegal to target people at work, school or in public spaces based on these traits.