Lexington becomes fourth city in Kentucky to ban race-based hair discrimination

Lexington will soon become the fourth city in Kentucky to ban race-based hair discrimination in workplaces.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council unanimously passed the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or C.R.O.W.N., ordinance, which would ban race-based hair discrimination of certain hair styles — such as braids, locs, twists or Bantu Knots.

A council committee unanimously passed the ordinance Tuesday.

Several people spoke in favor of passage of the ordinance before council’s vote Thursday. The council gave the ordinance both first and second readings on Thursday, which is rare.

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton signed the ordinance Friday. The ban takes effect immediately.

Former Rep. Attica Scott, who sponsored state legislation for a state-wide CROWN Act, said she sponsored the bill after her daughter’s Louisville’s school banned natural hair styles. Her daughter was able to get her school to change the policy and she was later featured in a documentary about Black natural hair and her fight to change the school’s policy.

“These policies are racially discriminatory and are legal,” Scott said.

Chemical straighteners can led to cancer, Scott said. Multiple studies have shown that Black women with natural hair styles are viewed as unprofessional. A 2019 Dove study showed that 80% of Black women have felt they need to change their hairstyles for work.

“We have the research,” Scott said. “We know it harms our health to use chemical straighteners. We know we are being discriminated against.”

Dr. Stephanie White, a pediatrician, said discrimination based on hair styles or textures can led to psychological harm. It makes people feel less than, particularly kids.

“The CROWN Act can help mitigate these affects,” White said.

Louisville, Covington and Frankfort have passed similar anti-hair discrimination measures. Efforts to get a statewide ban on hair-based discrimination has failed in the state legislature in recent years.

Covington was the first city to pass an ordinance in 2020. Frankfort was the latest in March.

According to information provided to the council Tuesday, 44 cities and 21 states have banned racial-based hair discrimination.

Three Black Lexington councilwomen — Shayla Lynch, Denise Gray and Tayna Fogle — pushed for the ordinance.

The proposed ordinance would ban racial based discrimination of hairstyles in employment and housing. The Lexington-Fayette Human Rights Commission would investigate all complaints. The courts could then decide financial damages if a business or person is found guilty.