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Appearance-based discrimination has become a major work issue

On Behalf of | May 24, 2023 | Employees' Rights |

Career success should depend on someone’s commitment, education and experience, not on factors over which they have no control, like their sex or race. Numerous federal laws and state regulations protect individual workers from discrimination based on immutable characteristics.

As a result, employers should not consider someone’s protected characteristics when making decisions about who to hire, which workers to promote or how much to pay individuals. These protections are among the best-known employment rights. Most workers recognize that they have protection against discrimination based on their sex, medical status, race and religion, but there are certainly other forms of discrimination that might affect their professional dreams.

For example, appearance discrimination has rapidly become one of the biggest concerns for modern workers, and it can be a challenge to overcome.

What is appearance discrimination?

Both discrimination based on someone’s height and their weight could constitute appearance discrimination. Roughly 36% of workers report that they have endured inappropriate commentary or had reduced employment opportunities because of their height or weight.

Technically, there is no law forbidding employers from considering a worker’s appearance when making decisions about who to hire, promote or give large projects to within the company. New York City could lead the way to address the issue, as the local authorities have a new law in the works that would prevent employers from discriminating based on weight or height.

For workers elsewhere, they may need to approach the matter differently. Discrimination based on someone’s height or weight could constitute medical discrimination. Especially if someone’s weight is the result of a medical condition, overt discrimination based on someone’s body size could constitute a form of medical or disability discrimination.

Some appearance discrimination is sex-based. When an employer makes rude comments about a man’s height but treats women of the same stature normally or when an employer is very negative about a woman’s weight or appearance because female employees should look nice, there could be a component of sexual harassment involved in the appearance discrimination that they endure.

It can be difficult to determine what rights someone has when they don’t receive the same opportunities in the workplace as others. Seeking legal guidance concerning the circumstances that make someone feel as if they have experienced appearance-based discrimination could help them determine if they are in an actionable position.



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