PITTSBURGH, PA (October 5, 2020) The Office of Mayor William Peduto has submitted the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act to City Council today to offer additional protection from hairstyle discrimination for Black Pittsburghers in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations.
Black individuals’ natural hair grows in different textures, lengths, and colors, and can be worn in a variety of hairstyles, which hold cultural and personal significance in the Black community. However, modern ideas of professionalism tend to reflect European or white standards. The recent CROWN study conducted by the JOY Collective indicates that 80% of Black women in the study said that they felt the need to alter their natural hair to “fit in” in professional setting. The CROWN study also indicates that Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair, their hair is 3.4 times more likely to be considered “unprofessional,” and they are 83% more likely to report being judged more harshly on their looks than white women nationally.
The Gender Equity Commission’s 2019 “Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race Report” suggests that these national trends are reflected here in Pittsburgh as the report outlined that personal, professional, housing, and educational outcomes are the most inequitable for Black women in the city. Locally, some workplaces, schools, and other groups have created grooming policies that create the opportunity to exclude Black women, Black men, and religious minorities in that space. This legislation seeks to remove these barriers and protect residents and employees from this type of discrimination.
“The City of Pittsburgh is committed to equity and to eliminating the barriers that unfairly affect our communities,” said Mayor William Peduto. “Black hair is and always has been professional, but that has not always been reflected by employers, schools, or agencies in this city. This legislation affirms our commitment to improving outcomes for Black residents and make certain that they do not face natural hair discrimination in the workplace, when searching for a home, or when entering a business.”
The legislation would provide legal recourse for individuals experiencing hairstyle discrimination. Claims or reports of hairstyle discrimination can be reported to the City of Pittsburgh’s Commission on Human Relations (CHR), who have already received numerous complaints. The CHR will be releasing guidance for landlords, employers, and business owners to understand the ordinance, understand hairstyle discrimination, learn best practices for creating a welcoming environment, and promoting actions to proactively prevent this type of discrimination over the coming weeks.
“Pittsburgh’s CROWN legislation is an important step in creating explicit protections that can help us realize a more inclusive and racially-just city,” said CHR’s Executive Director Megan Stanley. “While claims of natural hair discrimination may have been filed previously under the classes of race or religion, we want to make clear that natural hairstyles and coverings are welcoming, do not affect a persons skills or abilities, and that no person should be treated differently based on how they choose to wear or treat their hair. Sadly, we know this to be an issue both locally and across the country, and we hope that the legislation introduced and the companion guidance documents will help to create a more equitable Pittsburgh.”
Similar legislation has been passed and implemented in California, Colorado, New Jersey and has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, PA State House of Representatives, and is being pursued by the Philadelphia City Council. The CROWN Act in Pittsburgh has been supported by the local community.
“Black women and girls have historical been negatively judged and excluded both personally and professionally based on the texture and/or style of their hair,” said Kathi Elliott, Executive Director of Gwen’s Girls. “Society has taught us that it’s not professional or not beautiful. To be sent home from school or denied a job because ‘it’s a distraction’ or not professional, is an remnant of systemic racism. As the Crown Act continues to make progress on the state and federal levels, it’s encouraging to see the City of Pittsburgh taking this step, sending the message that this discrimination will not be tolerated and that violations will be met with legal recourse. Now we need school systems and businesses to review and change their policies and practices that perpetuate this discrimination.”
The legislation will be introduced during the regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 6. The full ordinance is available here.