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Employment discrimination by appearance

Employers are allowed to conduct themselves in any number of horrible ways. Some employers regularly make stupid decisions when it comes to work policies, hiring and firing decisions and more. The law does not protect workers from every bad decision made by an incompetent boss. The law does, however, protect employees who are denied overtime, or who are harassed, bullied or discriminated against for a protected reason.

One form of poor conduct that might not violate employment law is when employers favor employees or applicants they consider attractive. It would be nice to think that qualifications, effort and output carried the day at a job, but the reality is that some employers would rather promote someone pretty than someone hard-working. Of course, being attractive has no bearing on a person’s ability to be a good employee. In an ideal world, it would not be considered a positive or a negative to be physically attractive in the employment setting.

Exceptions to the rule

Of course, it is possible for looks-based employment decisions to violate New Jersey and federal employment laws. If a particular employer decides that no one over 40 is good looking, the policy is a form of age discrimination. If a hiring manager decides that only white people are attractive, that’s race discrimination. Employers can’t hide racist, sexist or ageist policies behind claims that they are selecting based on beauty.

Other considerations

Another problem with making employment decisions based on looks is that it is likely to foster an unhealthy workplace where workers’ rights are violated. If a manager chooses employees because they are attractive, that manager may be more likely to engage in sexual harassment and other abusive behavior.

It is not always clear when an employer’s bad conduct creates a valid legal claim. When it comes to discriminatory policies and questionable decisions regarding hiring or promotions, it may be necessary to speak to an attorney to understand your rights.

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Mount Laurel, NJ 08054

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