pexels tarzine jackson 773371CHICAGO – Employers can no longer discriminate based on hair, thanks to a measure led by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).

The Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act was signed into law Wednesday by Governor JB Pritzker, which includes hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks and twists to the Illinois Human Rights Act’s definition of “race”.

“So much of our identity has been wrapped into our hair, and the way we wear it has been judged for centuries,” Hunter said. “The CROWN Act shouldn’t have been necessary in the land of the ‘free’, but its implementation will protect people from petty discrimination.”

Findings from a recent Dove study 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 Act in response to a four-year old boy in Chicago who was told his braids violated his private school’s dress code.

This law expands on the Jett Hawkins Act, ensuring a uniform standard for the prevention of discrimination in schools, the workplace, and traditional public accommodations such as stores, restaurants, parks, and movie theaters.

“The way I wear my hair has nothing to do with my ability to do my job or with my level of professionalism,” Hunter said. “Judge me not on my hair, but who I am as a person.”

Similar laws have been passed in 14 other states, and the CROWN ACT has also been introduced on the federal level.

The CROWN Act goes into effect in Illinois next January.