Montgomery County introduced a new act into law that would protect residents from discrimination against wearing natural hairstyles at the workplace.
Effective today, the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) protects individuals who wear their hair in styles such as braids, locks and afros and allows those who are discriminated against to seek a civil penalty of up to $5,000 through the County’s Office of Human Rights.
Montgomery County is the first local jurisdiction to introduce the act, according to a press release from the Montgomery County Council. Montgomery County now joins California, New York and New Jersey -- all of which passed the legislation last year.
The bill, originally sponsored by Councilmembers Will Jawando and Nancy Navarro, covers discrimination in professional environments and in public places like group homes and taxis.
The County Council listened to testimony from residents about the discrimination they suffered due to their choice to wear natural hairstyles. According to the Montgomery County Council, African American residents or those with African ancestry are more likely to be affected by prejudice and discrimination due to their hairstyles so it is specified in the law that race includes “traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles."
The law comes amid national conversation about discrimination against traditionally black hairstyles, often sparked by incidents involving students and others who take a stand by wearing protective hairstyles.
In January, a black Texas teen was suspended from school and told he couldn’t walk for graduation if he didn’t cut off his dreadlocks. His hairstyle was against the school district’s dress code.
Last year, an eight-year-old was denied a school picture, and forced to stand in the hallway because the color of her new braids was against dress code.
In 2018, a story about a high schooler from New Jersey sparked outrage when he had to cut off his dreadlocks moments before a wrestling match.
And now, more black women are embracing their natural hair to avoid using chemical relaxers or other harsh treatments.