Workplace discrimination often covers issues relating to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and disability, but rarely discusses physical appearance.
In a society obsessed with looks, it is no surprise that attractiveness can help candidates land jobs. Unfortunately, the opposite may be true for less attractive job candidates.
Several years ago, Newsweek polled 202 corporate hiring managers to assess whether more attractive job candidates had an easier time landing jobs. According to the poll, 57 percent of hiring managers claimed qualified and unattractive candidates were less likely to land jobs. More than 50 percent claimed unattractive job candidates should focus an equal amount of attention on resumes and looks. A study from Italy came to a similar conclusion when it discovered attractive women had callback rates of 54 percent while unattractive women had callback rates of 7 percent.
If these findings upset you, continue reading, because businesses that make employment decisions based on attractiveness may be breaking the law.
Workplace Discrimination and Unattractiveness: Is It Against the Law?
Most places in the US do not offer employment protections to unattractive job candidates, but there are some cases where hiring decisions based on looks is illegal. Race and disability are good examples.
For example, Abercrombie & Fitch was sued for allegedly hiring attractive white people for jobs in the front of stores, and minorities (whom they may have considered less attractive) for positions in the back.
In other cases, an employer may find a job candidate’s weight to be unattractive, but this can be workplace discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) counts obesity as a disability, and employers cannot discriminate based on disabilities. If an obese job candidate were to be hired and placed into an unfavorable position solely based on his or her weight, it might run afoul of EEOC rules.
While it is exceptionally difficult to prove someone was not hired based on looks, it may be easier to show that an unfavorable employment decision was made based on a worker’s level of attractiveness—think of the Abercrombie & Fitch example we gave. If a qualified worker encountered one of the scenarios we have described above, and could find evidence, that person may have legal options.
The Los Angeles labor law attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. can defend employees who have faced workplace discrimination.