December 7, 2012
Three centuries ago, David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian said “Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.” The question we consider today is about what the mind does with the beauty it perceives. Human capital experts have always agonized over the question of the impact that beauty has in a recruitment process.
In other words, all things being nearly equal – would a recruiter favor and pick out the one with the ‘looks or beauty’ from among the available applicants? Who wins if the candidates differ only minimally on all other attributes? What would happen if the ‘beautiful’ one performed poorly on all the other parameters? Would beauty count for nothing, or weigh in favor of the candidate? It would appear that some recruiters do display a ‘beauty bias’; according to the EEOC.
Such recruiters would need to question whether beauty translates to attributes like:
- Higher Efficiency
- Superior Performance
- Good nature
- Greater Intelligence
- Better Relationships
If not, then – is it necessary to indulge one’s predisposition to surround themselves with persons who can be termed as ‘eye-candy’ worth the trouble on might expect from a discrimination lawsuit?
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!
‘Beauty bias’ is illegal and counts for discrimination as per the EEOC, and may soon end up joining the provisions of the protection offered by the EEOC against discrimination because of race, gender, age, religion, or nationality. It counts as unfair and can be applied in an employment discrimination suit. As beauty can be tied to the protected categories of age and gender, it is possible to stretch a point and bring cases of beauty bias into a discrimination suit under either one of these categories. States like Michigan already punish employers for discriminating against aspects of appearance like height or weight.
Preferential hiring based on a person’s attractiveness and/or gender is allowed if the employer can prove that the occupation calls for that qualification. However, although it would appear that it is not a practice an organization can get away with easily, in reality this is a very difficult charge to prove. Historically, there have been cases in which employers had arbitrarily specified age or weight requirements that were not linked to the individual’s ability to perform the work. Most notably, the airline industry has been forced to rethink the qualifications of flight attendants. However, social networks virtually guarantee that recruiters know what a candidate looks like and can approximate the individual’s age prior to even conducting a phone screen. Except in the most blatant of cases, proving discriminatory action would be extremely difficult.
If you look around you and find only good-looking people in any establishment (it could be your own) do take a minute to stop and think if there is discrimination being practiced and if so, can it be escalated to the right (read, EEOC) authority or stopped through some initiative of your own? The same goes for anyone who actually advertises the fact that their establishment will surround you with beautiful people!
The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.