Case Study: Hiring on the Basis of Looks

Topics: Discrimination, Racism, Sexism Pages: 9 (3281 words) Published: June 2, 2009

Companies that regulate a worker's appearance, from banning tattoos to mandating makeup, are facing a growing risk of lawsuits, most employment lawyers assert. Appearance based discrimination lawsuits are being filed more frequently, involving everything from eyebrow rings to sexy clothing, employment attorneys say. The corporate loose white shirt is in the past, more and more, people look different and are entering the work force, and the tensions between culture and policy are going to escalate (Johnston & Shafer, 2006). Another cultural shift that is taking place is where managers are struggling to control a younger generation of workers who are more culturally and racially diverse than before. Therefore, the younger generation is more resistant to rules regulating their personal appearance (Osterman, 2005). Attorneys note that in recent years there's been a rash of image-based lawsuits, including: The state of Nevada has a female bartender who is challenging a recent court ruling that upheld a casino's right to fire her for refusing to wear makeup (Osterman, 2005). In Massachusetts, a former employee is challenging a retail giant’s prohibition on facial jewelry (King, Winchester, & Sherwyn, 2006). Most recently, a jury ruled against a university librarian, who allegedly was denied promotions because she was too attractive and did not fit the image of a librarian. The university claimed she was told that she was considered to be just a pretty girl who wore sexy outfits, and that's why she wasn't getting promoted. The attorney for the librarian argued that this was a case where his client didn't fit the stereotype of the librarian (King, Winchester, & Sherwyn, 2006). Another lawyer is representing a women in an ongoing sex discrimination case against an entertainment conglomerate over a "personal best" policy that required women to wear makeup, she was fired for refusing to comply. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the businesses "personal best" policy, finding that the plaintiff failed to prove that the policy imposed unequal burdens on male and female employees. The policy required males to keep their hair short and their nails trimmed and to appear neatly groomed. The courts have long upheld grooming policies as long as they're rationally related to business objectives. The court holds that there exists a legitimate interest in mandating a professional appearance by workers and held that it would have created an undue burden for the business to have accommodated the employee (Kirton & Green, 2004). Businesses hiring on the basis of looks, appearance or physical attractiveness is not new, many businesses and industries have been doing it for years. Many clothing stores and model agencies employ young attractive people from different backgrounds. On the other hand, Abercrombie & Fitch employs only blonde, blue-eyed young people from a specific socioeconomic background. There are legal and ethical issues involved in this type of hiring procedure. Also, the possibility exists that Abercrombie & Fitch are engaging in discriminatory, unethical and unfair hiring practices. The different perspectives of the various stakeholders, the company, consumers, employees and potential employees must be compared, contrasted and analyzed to determine if the hiring actions are fair, and meet ethical parameters, or are discriminatory in nature and need revising (Kirton & Green, 2004). Discrimination

When discussing discrimination a definition must be agreed upon. Therefore discrimination is treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit of a group or individual. It is usually associated with prejudice. Discrimination can come in the form of affirmative action, that is, the behavior of promoting a certain group, or it can be negative behavior directed against a certain group called redlining (Carroll & Buchholtz,...
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