A measure led by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) to end hair discrimination in the workplace passed the Senate February 16, 2022.
“No one should have to miss out on a job opportunity or miss a school graduation because of the hair that grows naturally out of their head,” Hunter said. “It’s 2022. As a nation, we should be past this petty discrimination.”
Senate Bill 3616 – also known as the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act – amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to provide that the term “race” includes traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks and twists.
A recent study from Dove uncovered that 80% of African American women felt they needed to switch their hairstyle to align with more conservative workplace standards in order to fit in.
Hair discrimination occurs not only in the workplace but in schools across the country. Last year, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Jett Hawkins Actin response to a four-year-old boy in Chicago who was told his braids violated his private school’s dress code.
“Black people should have the right to be expressive and creative with their hair and not worry about being ‘unprofessional’ or violating a conduct policy because of it,” Hunter said. “If it is wrong to judge by the color of one’s skin, isn’t it also wrong to judge by the way one styles their hair?”
The Dove study also noted a bias against Black women with natural hairstyles in job recruitment. Black women with natural hairstyles were perceived to be less professional, less competent and less likely to be recommended for a job interview than Black women with straightened hairstyles and white women with either curly or straight hairstyles.
Black women with natural hairstyles also received more negative evaluations when they applied for a job in an industry with strong dress norms.
The CROWN Act passed out of the Senate Wednesday, February 16th and awaits further consideration from the House.