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Are less attractive employees discriminated against?

It probably would not surprise most people in Detroit to learn that physically attractive people who work in sales are more likely to make a greater volume of sales and sell more products overall. That's common knowledge.

However, one economics professor is raising an interesting employment law issue in a new book. His claim is that physically attractive people are rewarded more at work (and not just in sales). He says that good-looking people tend to make more than their average- and below-average looking peers and are more likely to get more frequent raises.

This is an employment law issue because employers are supposed to look at things like qualifications and job performance when hiring and promoting workers. Making these decisions based on physical attractiveness alone could be a form of discrimination.

But University of Texas in Austin economics professor Daniel Hamermesh says that is what is happening. In his book "Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful," he claims that attractive people earn about 3 to 4 percent more than people with "below-average looks" and tend to get promoted more frequently.

(Advance publicity for Hamermesh's book has not said how he defines things like "attractive" and "below-average looks.")

Here in the U.S., we have tried hard to enact laws to make sure that workers are evaluated only on their merits and are not discriminated against on the basis of things like race, gender and age. Do you think we need a law relating to physical attractiveness?

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "On the Job, Beauty Is More Than Skin-Deep," Sue Shellenbarger, Oct. 27, 2011

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