Hunter seeks to end hair discrimination in the workplace

SPRING FIELD – A 2019 Dove study found that African American women face the highest rates of hair discrimination and are more likely to be fired from the workplace because of their hair. State Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) introduced legislation to end the practice in Illinois.

“No one should have to miss a job opportunity or miss a school diploma because of hair growing naturally out of their head,” Hunter said. “It’s 2022. As a nation, we should move past this petty discrimination.”

Senate Bill 3616 – also known as the CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act – amends Illinois Human Rights Law to provide that the term “race” includes traits historically associated with the breed, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.

The Dove study also found that 80% of African American women felt they needed to change their hairstyle to align with more conservative standards in order to fit in at work.

Hair discrimination occurs not only in the workplace, but also in schools across the country. Last year, the Jett Hawkins Act was passed in response to a four-year-old boy in Chicago who was told his braids violated the private school dress code.

“Black people should have the right to be expressive and creative with their hair, and not worry about being ‘unprofessional’ or violating conduct because of it,” Hunter said. “If it is wrong to judge by the color of your skin and not by the content of your character, isn’t it also wrong to judge by the way you do your hair?

The Dove study also noted a bias against black women with natural hairstyles in recruitment. Black women with natural hairstyles were perceived as less professional, less competent, and less likely to be recommended for a job interview than black women with slicked back hairstyles and white women with curly or straight hairstyles.

Black women with natural hairstyles received more negative reviews when applying for a job in an industry with strict dress standards.

The CROWN Act was passed by the Human Rights Committee on Thursday and awaits further review before the full Senate.