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Press Releases - County Council

Montgomery County Council enacts CROWN Act

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Bill sponsored by Councilmember Jawando and Council President Navarro aims to end discrimination based on natural hairstyles

ROCKVILLE, Md., Nov. 5, 2019—Today the Council voted unanimously to enact Bill 30-19, the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, which prohibits discrimination based on natural hairstyles such as 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.  Councilmember Will Jawando and Council President Nancy Navarro were the lead sponsors of the bill.  

The CROWN Act ensures that 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.  That is why I introduced 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,” said Council President Navarro. "Employees should not have to fear retaliation for simply choosing a hairstyle.  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 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. In Sept. Council President Navarro introduced the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, of which Councilmember Jawando is 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.  A vote on the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act is expected later this month.    

Councilmember Jawando’s remarks before the Council vote on the CROWN Act can be viewed here .

Council President Navarro’s remarks before the Council vote can be viewed here .

The Council staff report that includes the text of the CROWN Act can be viewed here .  

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Release ID: 19-350
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 240-777-7926 , Juan Jovel 240-777-7931