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Press Releases - County Council

Councilmember Will Jawando and Council President Nancy Navarro introduce measure to end discrimination against natural hairstyles

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, September 24, 2019

ROCKVILLE, Md., Sept. 24, 2019—Today Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando and Council President Nancy Navarro introduced legislation to prohibit discrimination against certain types of natural hairstyles, including braids, locks, afros, curls and twists. African American residents and residents with African ancestry are more likely to be affected by workplace discrimination and other forms of prejudice.

Bill 30-19, the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, would ensure individuals who are discriminated against because of the appearance of their natural hair can seek a civil penalty of up to $5,000 through the County’s Office of Human Rights. The bill not only covers discrimination in employment but also in public accommodations, taxi services, admissions to group homes and cable services. It would add a definition of race to the underlying anti-discrimination law to specify that race includes “traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles.”

In July New York and California passed legislation prohibiting discrimination based on an individual’s hairstyle. Similar legislation has also recently been introduced in Wisconsin, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, Michigan and Illinois. Montgomery County is the first local jurisdiction to introduce such legislation.

“I will never forget the first time one of my daughters asked me why her hair wasn’t straight like the girls on television,” said Councilmember Jawando. “I told her she was beautiful the way she was created, and that I would fight to ensure that no one would force her, or her hair, to be otherwise. That is why I’m introducing the CROWN Act with my colleague Nancy Navarro, to prohibit discrimination based on natural hairstyles in Montgomery County.”

“This bill is another step forward for advancing racial equity in Montgomery County- employees should not have to fear retaliation for simply choosing a hairstyle” said Council President Navarro. “As a mother of two amazing Afro-Latina daughters, I know the struggles of a society that puts arbitrary constraints on one of the most personal expressions of culture and ethnicity - a person’s hairstyle. Montgomery County is a welcoming, diverse community, and our structures must be updated to better reflect who we are as a County.”

According to the CROWN Coalition, which advocated for the enactment of the CROWN Act prohibiting hair discrimination in California, black women in the U.S. are 80 percent more likely than their other colleagues to change their natural hairstyle to conform to workplace expectations. The practice of workplace hair discrimination is deeply rooted in institutional and systemic racism against African American self expression.

Councilmember Jawando, Council President Navarro and their Council colleagues have made addressing inequities facing African Americans and other communities of color in Montgomery County a top priority. Last week, Council President Navarro introduced the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, of which Councilmember Jawando was a cosponsor. That bill, which was the product of months of formal community conversations and quantitative analysis, will institutionalize the norms of equity and social justice into the work of county government.

Councilmember Jawando’s remarks at the introduction of the CROWN Act can be viewed here:

Council President Navarro’s remarks can be viewed here:

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Release ID: 19-307
Media Contact: Fatmata Barrie 240-777-7973 , Cecily Thorne 240-777-7972