The employee handbook is an extremely valuable tool and resource used for communication between an employer and its employees. Your employee handbook should provide your company’s mission, values, policies, procedures, and benefits in a written format that is easily accessible to everyone in the organization. As the workplace has evolved throughout the years, it’s important that your handbook evolves with it. Two updates that have more recently come to the forefront, are to incorporate Juneteenth and the CROWN Act into your handbook.
What is Juneteenth?
Before we talk about adding Juneteenth into your employee handbook, we wanted to give some background to help you understand its significance. Juneteenth — June 19th — commemorates that day in 1865 when the Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to begin enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation. Despite the Emancipation Proclamation having been issued by President Lincoln on January 1st, 1862, and freeing all enslaved peoples, Texas was the last Confederate state to do so. This was a massive win and a day that has held significant weight and has been celebrated ever since.
In June 2021, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday was passed and signed into law by President Biden. Biden called the establishment of Juneteenth as a national holiday a very important moment in U.S. history. He said at the signing remarks, “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments. They embrace them. Great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we make. And in remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger.”
How to Incorporate Juneteenth into your Employee Handbook
Many companies have already begun implementing different ways to honor this holiday in their company policies. Large companies like Nike and Target have made this a paid day off for their employees, while other companies have opted for a day of community service. There is more than one way to add Juneteenth into your employee handbook, one being adding it as a paid holiday off. This would work just like all other paid holidays included in your handbook, giving all your employees a paid day off each year on June 19th. Another way to commemorate this holiday is by having a dedicated day of service that day each year (or several days’ worth). This can be written into your handbook as a day (or multiple) where your company chooses to engage in some type of community service activity, as opposed to normal working hours that day.
You can get creative here, but remember the goal is to acknowledge the significance of the day and allow your employees ample opportunities to commemorate the day as they see fit.
What is the CROWN Act?
The CROWN Act stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” and was created in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN Coalition to ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools. From the Dove CROWN Research Study done in 2019, they found that Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from their workplace because of their hair. This movement has inspired state legislation across the United States in order to protect BIPOC individuals from workplace discrimination based on hair texture or protective hairstyles.
How to Incorporate the CROWN Act into your Employee Handbook
It’s important for employees to feel comfortable and safe showing up to work as their truest selves. Specific to Oregon, Governor Brown signed into law Oregon’s version of the CROWN Act on June 11, 2021. This expands protection against racial discrimination to include physical characteristics historically associated with race such as natural hair, hair texture, hair types and protective hairstyles (i.e. hairstyle, hair color, or manner of wearing hair that includes, but is not limited to, braids, locs, and twists). Depending on your state, you may have differing legislature surrounding the CROWN Act, so be sure to check in with your local guidelines for clarification.
Regardless of your state’s legislature surrounding the CROWN Act, it’s important to still make sure that any handbook language in your dress code and personal appearance policies aren’t racially discriminatory. Ensure that the language in your dress code and personal appearance policies aren’t prohibiting any of the characteristics dealing with the physical characteristics mentioned above. Even if there isn’t anything in your policies that explicitly prohibits certain hairstyles or other related physical characteristics, it may still be having a disproportionate adverse impact on members of a protected class. This could be violating your state’s laws and could be grounds for a racial discrimination case. Review your policies to make sure you’re avoiding language about requirements for shaving, restrictions on hair length or styles, and differing requirements for physical appearance based on gender.
Your employee handbook should act as a written resource for your company’s procedures, expectations, and policies, all based on your values and mission. You want to ensure that the policies within the handbook are equitable and evolving to provide your employees with a fair and equitable working environment.
Needing help with reviewing your employee handbook? Contact us for more information on how to get started!