On November 5, 2019, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act which prohibits discrimination against individuals based on hairstyle. The CROWN Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a person based upon a “protective hairstyle” which is defined as “those hairstyles necessitated by, or resulting from, the immutable characteristics of a hair texture associated with race.” Hairstyles specifically protected under the CROWN Act include afros, braids, locks, curls, and twists. The full text of Bill 30-19 may be obtained at the embedded link.
Individuals who believe they have suffered discrimination based upon a “protective hairstyle” may file a charge of discrimination with the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights and seek up to $5,000.00 in compensation. In order to avoid the expense and potential liability associated with defending a charge of discrimination, employers in Montgomery County should review grooming standards and brief supervisors on the CROWN Act’s requirements.
California and New York were the first states to enact race-based hair discrimination. New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio have followed with proposed legislation. As shown by the Montgomery County Council’s early actions on minimum wage and overtime and earned sick and safe leave laws, the County has proven to be on the forefront of employment related laws and an indicator of what is to come in the Maryland legislature. While there has been no formal action in the state legislature as of yet, Delegate Stephanie Smith, representative of the 45th State Legislative District in the Maryland House of Delegates and a member of the Legislative Black Caucus, spoke at an event at John Hopkins University this past month that was hosted by Knotty by Nature, a student group that seeks to empower natural hair. Delegate Smith’s presentation, titled “Politics of Hair” primarily focused on the recently passed CROWN Act in Montgomery County and her overwhelming support of the Act.
Mr. Burkhouse is a Member with PK Law and is part of the firm’s Education, Labor and Employment Group. As part of Mr. Burkhouse’s employment law practice he counsels and represents employers regarding employment discrimination claims arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Mr. Burkhouse also advises employers with regard to non-compete agreements, restrictive covenants, arbitration agreements, trade secrets, confidentiality agreements, and employee hiring and termination procedures. Mr. Burkhouse can be reached at(410) 740-3150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.