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Meet The Leaders Fighting Hair Discrimination In Illinois

CHICAGO (CBS)-- What if you were told you can't go to work or school, because of your hair?

Hair discrimination is real and it happens all over the country. CBS 2's Audrina Bigos looked into some legislation trying to stop it.

"Our hair has been politicized, it has been discriminated against for many decades and we are turning the page on that history," Illinois Senator mike Simmons said.

Senator Simmons is speaking about Black and Brown people's hair. Kinks and curls, braids, dreads, afros and twists – to name a few.

But there is debate for Black and Brown people across the country. So, Simmons introduced the Jett Hawkins Act.

The bill is named after a 4-year-old from Chicago who was told his braids violated his school's dress code.

The bill, awaiting the governor's signature, deems hair discrimination in schools illegal.

The Illinois State Board of Education will do an annual compliance probe of all schools to make sure that any discriminatory language against Black hairstyles is removed from those handbooks.

Simmons's bill is similar to a national one, the Crown Act, which stands to  "Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair."

"An employer says well you're not showing up in a way that is conducive to the image we're trying to portray, for example. They can terminate that employee," said Sivonnia Debarros, a business and employment attorney.

Debarros says, as the law stands now, employers can get away with terminating an employee because, "Right now, there is no national federal standard until Title 7, which is the Civil Rights Act for hair discrimination."

"Right now, there is no national federal standard until Title 7, which is the Civil Rights Act for hair discrimination," Simmons said.

The Crown Act would provide that protection and 290,000 people have signed a petition in support of it. It has already been passed by 13 states. Illinois is not one of them.

Senator Simmons has a message, whether at school or at work."Walk in your power, Be exactly who you are," He said. "We're moving in a direction that will mean you can show up how you want to show up."

Here in Illinois, the details get a little hairy.

The Crown Act was proposed but shot down. Instead, hair discrimination will be added under the state's Equal Pay Act.

This Saturday is a celebration of Black hair independence, the anniversary of signing the first crown act in the U.S. in 2019.

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