Two Midwest states add anti-discrimination language to school, employment laws

December 21, 2021

Bills to ban discrimination based on hairstyles associated with race became law this year in Illinois and Nebraska, placing them among a baker’s dozen states nationwide to have done so since California’s CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair) Act was enacted in 2019.

Illinois’ SB 817, known as the Jett Hawkins Act — named for a 4-year-old boy who was sent home from his school because his braids violated the dress code — bans schools from creating hairstyle-based dress codes. It takes effect at the start of 2022.

Nebraska’s LB 451 amends the state’s Fair Employment Practice Act by expanding the definition of race to include “characteristics such as skin color, hair texture, and protective hairstyles,” and defining those styles as including braids, locks and twists. Signed in early May, SB 451 does not prevent law enforcement agencies or the Nebraska National Guard from “imposing its own dress code and grooming standards.”

Michigan (HB 4275) and Wisconsin (AB 141/SB 251) are among the states where related bills were pending as of late 2021. In the U.S. Congress, the CROWN Act would make discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles associated with people of African descent a prohibited form of racial or national-origin discrimination.