We have posted a number of times about what has been referred to variously as “beauty bias,” “weight discrimination,” “lookism,” "unattractiveness bias," and/or “appearance bias.”
Yesterday, the Utah Legislature (Utah!) considered a bill which would have prohibited employment discriminating based on height and weight. Contending that employers sometimes judge people by their height and weight, the bill’s sponsor was not discouraged when it was voted down by a margin of 10-4 – he said that “We start it with race, color, religion, age discrimination, those types of things. It’s a starting point. Weight and height is just a starting point that, eventually, we’ll get to that point when we have legislation that’ll address those issues.”
Opponents of the bill claimed that height and weight discrimination would be difficult to define and would be unfair to employers.
On July 9, 2012 we posted a piece entitled: Unattractiveness – The Next Workplace Protected Class? and said that “A lot has been written lately (in legal blogs, at least) about what some call “beauty bias” – but which we have recently called “appearance bias” — workplace bias based upon appearance. Obesity bias seems to be the most frequently observed manifestation of this.” See our blog of February 11, 2011.
We directed everyone to the seminal work of law professor Deborah Rhode and economist Daniel Hamermesh, and encouraged everyone to read a great paper (with a useful bibliography), by Hofstra Professor Comila Shahani-Denning, entitled "Physical Attractiveness Bias in Hiring: What Is Beautiful Is Good." Rhode reported that about 60 percent of overweight women and 40 percent of overweight men report experiences of employment discrimination, and that short males often get “the short end of the stick” when it comes to hiring, promotion and earnings. Moreover, Newsweek Magazine reported that “handsome men earn, on average, 5 percent more than their less-attractive counterparts (good-looking women earn 4 percent more).”
If a state as conservative as Utah actually considered a height and weight law, employers should be aware of what’s coming down the pike.