Montgomery County bans discrimination of natural hair


Alex Silber

Workplaces in Montgomery County can now face a fine of $5,000 if they discriminate against employees based on hair type.

By Anna Kulbashny

Workplaces in Montgomery County can now face a fine of $5,000 if they discriminate against employees based on hair type, including afros, twists, curls and braids. The Montgomery County Council passed the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act or “CROWN,” Nov. 5th, becoming the first county in Maryland to ban discrimination against natural hairstyles, following the lead of states New York and California.  

County Councilmember Will Jawando and Council President Nancy Navarro were the leading sponsors of the bill. 

For Jawando, the bill hits close to home. After his daughter approached him with concerns about her hair, he knew something needed to change. 

“I will never forget the first time one of my daughters asked me why her hair wasn’t straight like the girls on television,” he said in a statement. “I told her she was beautiful the way she was created. That is why I introduced the CROWN Act.”

Upon becoming an EMT for the Bethesda Chevy-Chase Rescue squad, senior Monyette King was unsure if her managers and colleagues would see her preferred hairstyle of braids as an issue. Protective hairstyles, such as King’s braids, protect one’s hair from the harmful effects of sun exposure, regular styling with heat and constant manipulation by tucking away the ends of the hair. 

“I’m working at a job [that] requires you to have natural hair,” she said. “I was worried that if I showed up to work with a protective hairstyle during the winter, I would be called out for it or corporate would bring me in and suspend me and try to tell me to take out my hair.”

Junior Satine Diouf has witnessed students picking on other students’ hair since her freshman year at Whitman. Diouf remembers one student calling another girl’s hair, which was styled in a short, kinky twist, as “disgusting” and “really ugly.” 

Expanding the definition of what racial discrimination is, this bill is another step in the right direction, although it should have happened earlier, King said. 

“I really hope that it spreads awareness across the states,” she said. “Before, I felt like [Montgomery County] just ignored and brushed over what has been happening, but I’m glad they’re taking action now and acknowledging that ignorance like this is happening in this county.”