WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Marriott hotel employee who was told to change her cornrow hairstyle or lose her job complained Tuesday to District of Columbia officials that the order is culturally biased.

Pamela Mitchell, 25, a part-time reservation clerk at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Washington, said in the complaint to the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights that the hotel's position discriminates against black women, with whom the style is popular.

She said people should be allowed to express their culture. The hairstyle, with its tight, neat braids, is of African origin. It was also worn by white actress Bo Derek in the movie ''10.''

Mitchell said she was told twice in writing to change her hairstyle, and expected to be fired Monday when she refused. Instead, she was sent home with pay and told to report back Wednesday evening for a meeting with hotel officials.

Janice Smith, a spokeswoman for the city's human rights office, said investigators are examining the Marriott policy but sent Marriott a letter Dec. 22 saying the policy appeared to violate city law because its effect falls on mainly ''on an identifiable racial group.''

Robert Souers, Marriott's director of corporate relations, said the hotel would decide what action to take after studying the matter further.