Oregon joins a number of states in prohibiting discrimination based on hairstyles associated with a person’s race. Governor Brown signed HB2935 on June 11, 2021.
The CROWN act prohibits discrimination based on 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.” The law also expands the definition of “race” under ORS 659A to include “physical characteristics that are historically associated with race, including but not limited to natural hair, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.” The CROWN act specifically applies to Oregon employer and public schools.
The CROWN act also addresses dress codes that may have a disproportionate adverse impact on members of a protected class. Oregon anti-discrimination act, ORS 659A, does not prohibit employers from enforcing an otherwise valid dress code or policy so long as the policy provides reasonable accommodations. The CROWN act further specifies that the 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 generally.
The passage of the CROWN act is a good reminder to routinely update your employee handbook. Generally, handbooks include a statement regarding equal employment. Further, the Oregon Workplace Fairness Act requires Oregon employer to have an anti-discrimination and harassment policy. It is likely your employee handbook does not mention protected hairstyles. Now is a good time to update your handbook or have an expert review. 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.