On March 4, 2021, Governor Lamont signed into law the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair. Connecticut follows California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Colorado, Washington, and Virginia in adopting legislation that aims to prohibit discrimination on the basis of ethnic hairstyles historically associated with race.

The CROWN Act expands the definition of “race” under Connecticut’s Human Rights and Opportunities statute (General Statutes § 46a-51, et. seq.) to include traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles, such as braids, locs and twists.  For employers, this means that it is illegal to discriminate against applicants or employees because they maintain their natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial identity.  Although hair texture and protective hairstyles are specifically mentioned, other traits historically associated with race may also be afforded protection under the statute.

Employers are encouraged to review their grooming policies and eliminate any provisions that may violate the CROWN Act.  This may include policies that require employees to adopt a certain hairstyle; prohibit employees from wearing certain hairstyles; or indicate a preference for certain hairstyles over others.  Employers are also encouraged to train their employees, especially managers or supervisors, to recognize and detect bias on the basis of traits historically associated with race.

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Photo of Patricia E. Reilly Patricia E. Reilly

Patricia E. Reilly, Chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Group, is an experienced litigator who represents clients in a wide range of cases including, employment discrimination and related torts, non-compete and restrictive covenants, wage and hour, breach of contract, unfair trade practices…

Patricia E. Reilly, Chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Group, is an experienced litigator who represents clients in a wide range of cases including, employment discrimination and related torts, non-compete and restrictive covenants, wage and hour, breach of contract, unfair trade practices, and business disputes. In addition to maintaining a thriving litigation practice, Tricia counsels clients on a variety of employment-related issues including hiring, firing, and discipline; wage and hour; state and federal FMLA; sexual harassment investigations and prevention; Title IX; pregnancy and disability accommodation; and avoidance of employment discrimination liability.

Tricia is listed as a leading Labor and Employment Lawyer in Chambers USA.  She is listed in Best Lawyers in America®, and in 2017, Best Lawyers in America® recognized her as “Lawyer of the Year”, New Haven, Litigation – Labor and Employment. Tricia is a member of the American Bar Association, the Connecticut Bar Association and the New Haven County Bar Association.  She received her B.A. from Wesleyan University and her J.D. from University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

Photo of Martha M. Royston Martha M. Royston

Martha Royston is an Associate in the Litigation Department and the Labor and Employment Practice Group.

Martha represents employers in a wide variety of cases, including claims of discrimination and retaliation; breach of non-compete and restrictive covenants; and wage and hour violations.  She…

Martha Royston is an Associate in the Litigation Department and the Labor and Employment Practice Group.

Martha represents employers in a wide variety of cases, including claims of discrimination and retaliation; breach of non-compete and restrictive covenants; and wage and hour violations.  She litigates matters before the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) and in state and federal court, and assists employers with audits and investigations by governmental agencies such as the Connecticut Department of Labor (CT DOL) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Martha also counsels employers on best practices and helps management and human resources professionals navigate personnel issues, including employee discipline; termination and separation; employee leave; and reasonable accommodations.  She drafts employee handbooks and assists employers with crafting personnel policies that suit their particular needs.