Connecticut lawmakers are hoping to make Connecticut the eighth state to ban discrimination against Black women in the workplace and schools for how they wear their hair.
“Many of us are judged, reprimanded and passed over for promotion or even fired for the way we wear our hair to work,” Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven) said.
Porter, a sponsor of the bill, said she was told when she was elected seven years ago to settle on a hairstyle because people aren’t going to recognize her. She didn’t listen, but understands the pressure.
“Conformity is often a means of survival,” Porter said.
California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado and Washington have all banned discrimination based on hairstyles like braids, locks, bantu twists, weaves, wigs, etc.
Porter wants to make Connecticut the eighth state.
Last year was the first year the legislation was raised and it passed the Labor and Public Employees Committee 11 to 3 but the session was cut short due to COVID-19, so it never made it to the House for a vote.
“Did you know a Black woman is 80% more likely to change her natural hair to meet social norms and expectations at work? And Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home or know of a Black woman sent home from the workplace because of her hair,” Christina Jackson said.
Thirteen-year-old Jackson, a Windsor resident, said those statistics came from a DOVE study of women ages 25 to 64.
Jackson said passage of the Crown Act will prevent her from having to deal with the issue during her professional career.
“This legislation ensures that traits historically associated with race such as hair texture and hairstyle are protected from discrimination,” Jackson said.
Jackson said she felt pressure to put chemicals in her hair so she could put it in a bun for gymnastic meets like her white teammates.
“I wanted my hair to be like theirs so bad that I wished for straight hair so I could be just like my teammates. That process ruined my hair and bruised my self-esteem. Bruised but not broken,” Jackson said.
Senator Julie Kushner, who co-chairs the Labor and Public Employees Committee, said they need to pass the legislation so there’s a statute under which people can sue for this type of discrimination.
“We don’t want any unclarity as to whether natural hairstyles are protected under current statute,” Kushner said.