Illinois enacts law prohibiting racial discrimination based on hairstyle or hair texture – Employee Rights/Labour Relations

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On July 1, 2022, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 3616, also known as the CROWN Act. The CROWN Act (“Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair”) (Public Law 102-1102) amends the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to expand the definition of “race” for the purposes to fight illegal discrimination in Illinois. The CROWN Act will come into force on January 1, 2023.

The CROWN Act expands the IHRA’s definition of “race” to include “traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks and twists”. This new definition means that “[u]”Lawful discrimination…against a person because of their race or perceived race” according to the IHRA now includes discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyle.

Notably, Illinois now joins sixteen other states with CROWN Act laws, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington. The U.S. Virgin Islands recently enacted the Virgin Islands Crown Act of 2022. The Alaska Legislature has approved anti-discrimination legislation “regarding dress codes and natural hairstyles,” although the Alaska governor has not not yet signed the measure; the Massachusetts legislature is also considering CROWN Act legislation. At the federal level, the CROWN Act (HR 2116) was passed by the US House of Representatives in March 2022, and complementary legislation (S. 888) was introduced in the US Senate.

Illinois employers may want to review their grooming policies and practices to ensure compliance with the CROWN Act.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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