Law that would prevent workplace cultural hair discrimination passes Tennessee House

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Posted at 7:52 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 21:42:24-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A bill to stop workplace discrimination of people with cultural hairstyles passed Monday through the Tennessee House.

The CROWN Act — Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair — would add protections for certain hairstyles in Tennessee jobs.

Memphis Democrat Rep. Karen Camper sponsored the bill. She said she's heard circumstances where a person is targeted because of their hair.

"It's like, culturally as an African American, I may wear locks, I may wear two knots and people should not be discriminated against because of that," said Camper.

The bill specifies braids, locks and twists. However, other hairstyles could apply.

An amendment was added to have reports of discrimination kept by Tennessee Department of Labor.

It passed on the House floor with a vote of 50 to 29, with 14 lawmakers abstaining or absent.

Local reggae DJ Ahmid "Star" Sesay said he believes there's a place for the law in Tennessee. Because while he has dreadlocks and he hasn't felt discrimination in his line of work, there's always been a stigma around the hairstyle.

"There's a time in Rasta where there was a lot of persecution, just with the look and the beliefs," Sesay said. "At one time it was really frowned upon, but I think it's a symbol of strength. A symbol to be who you are. Symbol of strength to show who you are."

Sesay is from Sierra Leone. He grew a love for reggae music and has been mixing new and classic reggae for two years.

He believes Tennessee can progress through this type of hair acceptance.

The state Senate will still have to pass the bill and Gov. Bill Lee will have to sign it for it to become law.