August 19, 2022

Volume XII, Number 231

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Illinois CROWN Act Expands Human Rights Law to Ban Race-Related Hair Discrimination

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed into law the “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” Act, or CROWN Act, which prohibits hair discrimination.

The CROWN Act amends the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to provide that the IHRA’s definition of “race,” and therefore the protections afforded to race as a protected characteristic, includes “traits associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.”

The amendment is effective January 1, 2023, and apply to the employment, housing, financial transactions, and public accommodations sectors. To prepare, companies should evaluate their existing grooming and appearance policies to ensure compliance. Requiring employees to wear specific hairstyles, or even prohibiting hair of a certain length, conceivably could run afoul of the Illinois CROWN Act.

The text of the CROWN Act covers hair traits “associated with race, including, but not limited to,” hair texture and protective styles as examples, not as an exhaustive list of CROWN Act-protected characteristics. The IHRA contains other provisions that might affect a company’s practices. The IHRA states that nothing in its list of prohibited forms of discrimination “prohibits an employer from enacting a dress code or grooming policy that may include restrictions on attire, clothing or facial hair to maintain workplace safety or food sanitation.” The IHRA also includes a bona fide qualification exemption that permits hiring or selecting between persons for bona fide occupational qualifications.

Illinois joins more than a dozen states to have adopted such a law. In addition, the federal CROWN ACT bill is pending in Congress, following the trend in the states. (For details, see our article, House Passes CROWN Act Ban on Natural Hair Discrimination in the Workplace.)

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2022National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 182
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About this Author

Paul Patten, Employment, Management, Attorney, Jackson Lewis Law Firm
Principal

Paul Patten is a Principal in the Chicago, Illinois, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He represents management in employment cases in federal and state courts and before administrative agencies.

Mr. Patten’s practice focuses primarily on employment litigation and counseling. He represents employers in federal and state individual and class-based lawsuits covering a wide range of statutes and subjects, including federal and state anti-discrimination and wage and hour laws.

312-803-2570
Marlo Johnson Roebuck, Jackson Lewis Law firm, Labor Employment Attorney
Office Managing Principal

Marlo Johnson Roebuck is the Office Managing Principal of the Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan, offices of Jackson Lewis P.C. She represents employers on the myriad of laws governing the workplace, including but not limited to Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

With almost two decades of legal experience, Ms. Roebuck's representation includes employment advice and counseling as well as employment litigation. She has successfully represented employers in the health care, financial and professional...

248-936-1900
Associate

Thanin O. Stewart is an Associate in the Chicago, Illinois, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. His practice focuses on representing employers in workplace law matters, including preventive advice and counseling.

After law school, Thanin worked as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Justice Rita B. Garman of the Illinois Supreme Court.  He has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, coaching Trial Advocacy teams to championships in the Peter J. Johnson Civil Rights Competition and the National Trial Advocacy Competition. ...

312-787-4949
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