Deep-blue Montgomery County has become the first jurisdiction in the Washington region to ban discrimination against natural hairstyles, following similar legislation in California and New York.

The county’s all-Democratic council voted unanimously Tuesday for a bill that outlaws discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere against certain types of hairstyles, including “braids, locks, Afros, curls and twists.” The legislation allows those who face discrimination to seek a civil penalty of up to $5,000.

At a public hearing last month, several residents in the majority-minority jurisdiction of 1 million described incidents in which employers pressured them to change a hairstyle to abide by “Eurocentric standards of beauty.” Proponents of the legislation argue that such pressure represents a form of racial bias against black and Latino people.

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Area attorneys and the county’s own Human Rights Office say formal instances of hair discrimination in the county were rare. But council members countered that the bill would serve as a preemptive warning to employers and reaffirm the rights of the county’s 200,000 black and Hispanic women.

“I will never forget the first time one of my daughters asked me why her hair wasn’t straight like the girls on television,” County Council member Will Jawando (D-At Large), who spearheaded the bill and is African American, said in a statement Tuesday.

Council President Nancy Navarro (D-District 4) said the anti-hair-discrimination bill is part of the county’s wider efforts to address racial inequities through legislation. Her signature bill, theRacial Equity and Social Justice Act, is scheduled for a vote this month.

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