Julie Kushner

State Senator

Julie Kushner

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working Together for Progress

February 9, 2021

Rep. Robyn Porter, Sen. Julie Kushner and YWCA Advocate for C.R.O.W.N. Act

Just before the legislation was raised in a public hearing this morning, the co-chairs of the Labor Committee, Rep. Robyn Porter (D- Hamden) and Sen. Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) advocated for the passage of the C.R.O.W.N. Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on the adoption of ethnic hairstyles. They were joined by community leaders including Adrienne Cochrane and Melinda Johnson of the YWCA Greater Hartford Region, Christina Jackson of the YWCA’s Young Women’s Leadership Corps, Adioa B. Asamoah, developer of the C.R.O.W.N. Act’s legislative strategy and Timothy Fraylon, Workforce Development Coordinator of the Urban League Greater Hartford.

The C.R.O.W.N. Act, House Bill 6376, if passed would prohibit discrimination on the basis of ethnic hairstyles historically associated with race. Specifically, it would add two additional qualifiers to current legislation preventing discrimination, noting that “race” is inclusive of traits historically associated with race like hair texture and protective hairstyles and those hairstyles can include braids, locs and twists. This bill was introduced by co-chairs of the Labor Committee, Rep. Porter and Sen. Kushner.

Currently, 80 percent of Black women feel that they have to change their natural hair to fit in at the workplace. H.B. 6376 will ensure that women are able to express themselves and that Black culture is both respected and valued within the workplace. This legislation explicitly dictates that discrimination based on hair textures or hairstyles will not be tolerated in Connecticut. Studies show Black women’s hair is 3.4 times as likely to be called “unprofessional” compared to white women’s hair; Black women are also 50 percent more likely to have been sent home from the workforce due to their hair.

“The way Black women, men, and children choose to wear their hair is culturally consequential and has no bearing on our ability to perform professionally, academically or otherwise,” said Rep. Porter. “Nonetheless, we have been and continue to be subjected to discrimination based on our ethnic hairstyles and textures. For this reason, we are again introducing this legislation to eliminate the ability for discrimination based on these grounds. After listening to 13-year-old Christina Jackson speak truth to power at this morning’s press conference, I am reminded that we are also doing this to send a message to our precious children that they are phenomenally and uniquely made, from the sacred C.R.O.W.N. of their heads to the soles of their feet, and that they are beautiful just the way they are!”

“As legislators, it is our responsibility to bring justice to those who have experienced discrimination,” said Sen. Kushner. “No one wearing a natural hairstyle should face obstacles at work — we heard testimony today from CHRO officials that the C.R.O.W.N. Act is absolutely necessary to ensure that these workers have legal protections to address this issue. Black women being told their natural hair, their natural bodies, are not ‘good enough.’ The fact that there are no federal protections against discrimination based on hairstyles makes our work to address systemic discrimination all that more urgent. That’s precisely why I support the C.R.O.W.N. Act.”

In testimony submitted to the Labor and Public Employees Committee, Johnson advocated for the C.R.O.W.N. Act, which “not only puts an end to discrimination of people of color based on their hair texture or ethnic hairstyle but affirms that the identity of Black and Brown people must be accepted in mainstream culture, not just tolerated as an alternative.”

This bill was raised in the Labor Committee Public Hearing immediately after legislators advocated in favor of it.