Arizona governor signs executive order banning hair discrimination

Governor Katie Hobbs signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on someone's hairstyle on March 17.

Both Tempe and Tucson have passed similar bans, but the executive order will make the discrimination illegal statewide for state employees and contractors.

This would follow 20 other states with similar laws banning discrimination on the basis of someone's natural hairstyle or texture, often styles associated with race like braids, twists and locs.

It's often referred to as the CROWN Act, which stands for "Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair."

A study released by Dove back in 2019 showed that Black women were 83% more likely to feel judge than other women in the workplace, and 1.5 times more likely to be reminded of workplace policies.

There was an attempt to pass the CROWN Act nationwide last year. It passed the U.S. House but ultimately died in the Senate. 

‘Allowing everyone to be themselves’

Hairstylist Kiara Jones says she knows what it's like to be discriminated based on her chosen hairstyles. She's seen it with clients at her Gilbert salon too.

"This is our hair. So to be able to have freedom to do whatever to our hair, it's very powerful," she said.

"At times, my clients will sit in my chair, and they'll be like, 'I'm very limited on styles 'cause I'm going for this job, and I'm the only one that looks like me, so I don't want to have certain styles that will bring too much attention,'" Jones said.

Shaunte Fox owns Belle Melange Salon in Tempe and specializes in curly textured styles. She says many of her clients in the past have damaged their hair trying to conform to straight hairstyles using heat, and hair relaxers.

"It can be damaging to the hair follicles which can lead to hair loss. Being able to go to work and being able to express themselves freely and naturally is an awesome thing and I'm so excited to hear about this happening here in our state," Fox said.

The hope is that each person can feel confident and beautiful no matter how they decide to wear their hair.

"There's nothing wrong with straightening your hair, there's nothing wrong even relaxing your hair, there's nothing wrong wearing your hair natural, having locks, having braids. It's just when you feel restricted. So allowing everyone to be themselves, it feels great," Jones said.

Continuing Coverage:

Hair discrimination still exists in today’s society. In the last five years, a referee forced a wrestler to cut his locks at a New Jersey match, and children in different states were sent home from school for wearing protective hairstyles, including a little boy in Florida.

Discriminatory incidents happen in the office, too. In 2019, Dove conducted a research study on workplace bias.

It found that Black women were 83% more likely to report being judged harshly on their looks than other women, and Black women were 30% more likely to be made aware of a workplace appearance policy. The study also found Black women were one-and-a-half times more likely to be sent home from the office because of their hair.