'Beauty Bias' is Real and Discriminatory

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 19, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The 'beauty bias,' where attractive people appear to have an advantage, isn't just a rumor. There is evidence that it exists and that it leads to discrimination against less attractive people in a variety of areas, including hiring.

Not only is it unfair, in some cases it's illegal discrimination.

Attractiveness isn't in the same category as gender, race, religion, or nationality but that doesn't mean hiring based on looks is ok under the law.

Federal laws on employment discrimination don't specifically speak to looks or appearance as a protected category that allows retaliation. But those laws can still apply in an employment discrimination suit.

For better or worse, many of the traits of attractiveness are tied to protected categories, most notably gender and age.

Often 'beauty bias' is also tied up in other kinds of potential discrimination. Look at Marylou's Coffee, a Boston-based coffee shop chain that is currently under investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The chain is famous for hiring young women to work at their shops and sport their pink shirts, reports Boston WBZ-TV. It could be seen as bias based on looks but it could also possibly be discrimination based on age and gender.

What it does show is that a perceived 'beauty bias' in hiring can potentially be prosecuted under the law.

Have you been passed over for a job and you're not sure if it's really discrimination? Post your question on the FindLaw Answers Employment Hiring, Firing, and Discrimination Forum. It's a free way to get a second opinion.

State law may also be helpful for a legal claim, reports Forbes. Some states, including Michigan, punish employers for discriminating based on certain aspects of appearance such as weight or height.

At the end of the day, employment decisions should focus on who can do the job best. If you think unfair factors are also being taken into account, don't hesitate to contact a lawyer.

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