Maryland county 1st in U.S. to ban hairstyle-based discrimination

Nov. 8 (UPI) — A Maryland county has become the first in the United States to ban discrimination based on hairstyle — following similar laws passed this year in other municipalities.

Montgomery County passed the ban Wednesday, by a vote of 30-19, following outcry from African-American and Latino residents who say they have experienced discrimination based on their hair.

The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN, law makes it illegal to discriminate against a person with a “protective hairstyle” — like those “necessitated by, or resulting from, the immutable characteristics of a hair texture associated with race.”

“This bill will say with a resounding voice that discrimination on the basis of natural hair is race discrimination,” councilor Will Jawando, a co-sponsor of the bill, said.

“This bill is another step forward for advancing racial equity in Montgomery County,” councilor Nancy Navarro said. “Employees should not have to fear retaliation for simply choosing a hairstyle, nor should anyone be denied access to vital services in their day-to-day lives based solely on their hairstyle.

“We are tolerant and welcoming community, and this legislation is designed to reinforce that fact at the structural level.”

Under the law, violators could be fined up to $5,000.

At a recent public hearing in the suburban Washington, D.C., county, some women said they’ve had employers who pressured them to change their hairstyles.

“People are being demoted, being harassed, losing professional advancement because of their natural hair and also some real psychological consequences to this form of discrimination,” law professor Wendy Green said.

Similar legislation was passed earlier this year in New York and California, but Montgomery is the first U.S. county to enact such a statute. Other jurisdictions in Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wisconsin are considering similar laws.


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