Appearance Discrimination: Bigotry’s Last Bastion?

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There was an interesting article in the Star Tribune last week about appearance discrimination. Written by Deborah Rhodes, a Stanford law professor and author of “The Beauty Bias,” the article proposes that appearance discrimination (including weight and looks) should be included in anti-discrimination laws to remedy what is considered legalized and accepted discrimination.

Statistics have shown that appearance discrimination exists — 16% of employees reported being victims of appearance discrimination. Unattractive people are less likely to be promoted and hired and earn less than attractive co-workers who perform the same jobs, and unattractive defendants get longer prison sentences than more attractive ones.

Businesses often justify their decision to hire more attractive candidates by saying that attractiveness is job-related; worker’s appearance can affect the company’s image and profitability. Employers used to make the same arguments about black employees, saying that customers preferred being waited on by white employees, and the airlines as well, claiming that sexist uniform helped company profitability and image. The courts didn’t buy such arguments. The same may be happening with appearance discrimination.

In Italy, you often see job postings looking for candidates with a bella presenza, or a nice appearance. It is also common to limit job candidates to certain ages (usually under 25), even when age is not related to how one might carry out the job. Clearly discriminatory.This happens elsewhere; iin El Salvador it is also common to limit job candidates to under 35, or under 29

As an example of the discriminatory job policies often found in Italy, I found the following posting rather amusing…a 40-year-old man looking for work as a secretary/assistant. In his announcement,  he tells his would-be employers that he has a bella presenza. Somehow, I can’t see that happening in the US (thank goodness!) and it is one of the things that I admire and like about business and life here.


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