In 2021, the Oregon Legislature passed the Oregon CROWN Act. The CROWN act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and potential employees based on hairstyles associated with race.
Oregon employers, historically, are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of race. The CROWN act aims to further define what race is by including “physical characteristics that are historically associated with race, including but not limited to natural hair, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles. Protective hairstyles are defined as “hair color or manner of wearing hair that includes, but is not limited to, braids, regardless of whether the braids are created with extensions or styled with adornments, locs, and twists.”
In addition to expanding the definition of race, The CROWN act also prohibits dress codes that may have a disproportionate adverse impact on members of a protected class. The CROWN act specifies that a dress code or policy must not have a disproportionate adverse impact on members of a protected class to a greater extent than the policy impacts persons in general. For example, if a dress code may appropriately prohibit employees from wearing hats. However, a dress code that prohibited wearing of braids would likely be found to disproportionately affect a protected class.
Now that the effectiveness of the CROWN act is a month away, its a good time to review your employee handbook to ensure it complies with the CROWN act. Any changes to address the CROWN act should be mindful of your obligation to provide employment free of discrimination but also take into consideration a reasonable dress code policy.
If you would like assistance updating your handbook or if you have any questions regarding the CROWN act, please do not hesitate to contact me at or 503-595-6107.