A Senate-approved bill known as the Crown Act aimed at ending employer discrimination against Black natural hairstyles is headed to the House floor after a contentious debate in committee.

New Orleans Senator Troy Carter said his bill was inspired by the experiences of African Americans who were suspended from school or fired from jobs just for wearing their hair naturally.

“You have others who have been in the meeting who wore their hair in an afro or wore their hair completely natural without any chemicals and some people found that offensive, and it should not be,” said Carter.

The legislation protects against racial discrimination on the basis of natural hairstyles or textures including, but not limited to afros, braids, locks, or twists.

Denham Springs Representative Valarie Hodges voted against the bill.

“It is confusing to the business owner because now we are putting into law that you have to let someone have a natural hairstyle,” said Hodges.

Hodges said business owners should have the right to dictate what employees’ hair looks like.

“We’re putting more and more regulations on business and this is really a kind of regulation where if they don’t comply, they’re going to get sued,” said Hodges.

Carter argued the bill will not prevent employers from setting restrictions on hair length, whether beards are allowed, or other limits such as the requirement for hairnets in kitchens.

Haughton Representative Dodie Horton was initially skeptical but voted to pass it after a lengthy discussion with Carter.

“I’m just really shocked that we need this legislation,” said Horton, to which Carter replied, “If you have been African American for one single day in this country you find that we have a lot of things that require some attention.”

The bill passed 7-4 and heads to the House floor for final approval.

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