New hair discrimination protection in Illinois

Written by: Kimberly A. Ross, FordHarrison LLP

Illinois is set to join 13 other US states in introducing protection against discrimination based on hair styles and textures, especially those associated with natural black hair.

On April 9, 2022, the Illinois Senate passed House Amendment 1 to SB 3616, joining the Illinois House in unanimously passing a law called CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act. Governor JB Pritzker is expected to sign the bill.

Assuming this is the case, the CROWN Act creates a definition of “race” under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to include “traits associated with race, including, but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks and twists.

Previously, on August 13, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed into law a version of a CROWN law that, due to various amendments, only applied to schools and not workplaces, despite the acronym “CROWN” making reference to a “respectful and open workplace”. .’ (Some refer more broadly to the “W” in CROWN as “world” rather than “workplace.”)

The original version of SB 3616 would have added the new definition of “race” under the definition of “unlawful discrimination” found in the general definitions section of the IHRA, but specifically limited to use in Article 2 of the IHRA. IHRA relating to employment. In the House amendment, the definition of “race” stands alone in the general definitions section, meaning it also applies to all other areas of the IHRA that prohibit discrimination, including, among others, housing, public housing and real estate transactions.

Assuming the law is signed by Governor Pritzker (which, with unanimous passage by the Legislature, is almost a foregone conclusion), Illinois would join 13 other states with CROWN laws protecting against hair discrimination, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Nebraska. , Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Washington. Dozens of municipalities across the country have also passed CROWN Laws, and CROWN Law legislation is pending in many other states.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that most states that have enacted or proposed CROWN Act legislation did so soon after the attention-grabbing animated short titled “Hair Love.” on the issue of protective hairstyles, won an Oscar on February 9, 2020.

On March 18, 2022, the United States House of Representatives passed a CROWN Act (HR2116), and it is currently pending in the Senate.

Regardless of what happens on a national level, with this new wave of CROWN Act legislation, employers should be wary of how they outline their grooming guidelines with regards to hairstyles, as state or state laws city ​​could change in 2022 and beyond if they haven’t already.