We don't want your ugly ass-- Is this really discrimination?

It seems many of the “hipper” clothing stores only hire good looking youngsters and are beginning to get sued over it. Now, I don’t know that there are any laws on hiring discrimination against the not-so-attractive and I’m not sure I’d like to see laws dictating who private businesses hire. I think it is unfortunate and morally iffy but not illegal. Until I read this:

But I know absolutely nothing about the law, I’ve come here to ask-- do any of these lawsuits have a chance? How can they?

I don’t think a lawsuit would have a chance if it were based on an unattractive person being steered toward a stockroom job or not being hired .But apparently, in this case, the problem is that non-whites are being steered toward the stock room or not being hired. A different issue entirely. and a lawsuit which may succeed.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. If it is the policy of Abercrombie to hire only those people with blond hair and blue eyes, they are in violation of the law. If they hire all races, just no the ugly ones, then they are probably not in violation of any law. Ugly is much more subjective, and it would be difficult to prove in court that you had been discriminated on that basis.

It most definitely is discrimination, but I’m having a hard time distinguishing this kind of discrimination from the kind modeling or talent agencies use.

IANAL, but it seems to me like the real problem comes not with the non-hiring of “ugly” people, but the differential treatment of “beautiful” and “ugly” people once they are hired. Employees who have demonstrated equal abilities should have equal access to all positions.

[Doctor Hibbert]

Sure, and hillbillies want to be called “sons of the soil.” But it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

[/Doctor Hibbert]

I wonder about places like Hooters. The idea is based on the perception of beauty. The general perception of beauty. The outside beauty. Abercrombie is interested in marketing its’ clothing to a specific group of people. I don’t see anything wrong there. They want the sales staff to represent the look and style and the type of person they are marketing to. Think about this, would you want the courts to force “Afro - Sheen” to put some white geek on its label or force an outlet that specializes in black beauty products to hire a bunch of white people to work there ? Should Hooters be forced to hire a certain number of overweight or physically disfigured people ? Should my local high school basketball team be forced to have players that represent the ethnic make up of the school or should the players that will serve the best interest of the team be accepted ? Where do we draw the line ?

Why? Some companies pride themselves on image, and want to promote a certain image. Whether that image is ‘preppy,’ ‘urban,’ ‘country,’ ‘raver,’ ‘skater,’ or (in my case) ‘plain’ you seek to match individuals with similar tastes and knowledge of product lines to the clientelle. As much as I hate to say it, that’s good for business because it caters to their niche clients. If you want to attract ‘good looking white kids’ as clients, why not staff the store with similar persons? It doesn’t prevent others from shopping there, and if enough ‘others’ shop there, why wouldn’t the company shift their staff to match this new group of clients?

I myself would feel out of place working for a retailer like A&F, or American Eagle because I don’t like their clothing. It’s not my style. I don’t like the type of people who work there (I’ve been in A&F once, with an ex-girlfriend, and I found the staff to be…how to be nice about this…knowledgable about the products and fashion, and little else.) I simply would not fit in. Does that make me less of a person? No. Does that mean they discriminated against me? Uh, no.

To turn this around, would it be discrimination if I, a 24 year old 5’10", 144 pound, half-korean Jew with a high-and-tight and a Training Instructor’s demeanor were to be turned down for a job working in an establishment which caters mainly to blacks? I’d say no, again, because I don’t match the clientelle. Yea, I’d make a great stocker, but I doubt that people’d believe me when I said something looked good on 'em.

Just my .02

Is this not similar to what one finds in many ethnic restaurants? I can’t remember the last time I eat Chinese food and ever saw one non-Asian waiter/waitress.

I don’t know how the law is enforced in these instances. I’d guess that most restaurants are too small for these lawsuits and only larger companies get targetted. But my own opinion is that private establishments should be able to hire anyone they damn well please. The government should not discriminate, but private individuals should be free to do so if they choose. Again, I know the law says you can’t-- I’m disagreeing with the law on the principle of free choice for private citizens.

While I was holidaying in New Zealand during the previous America’s Cup I saw the ultimate example of this. Some welthy family advertised for all sorts of staff for their big big yacht. The ad specified that applicants had to be attractive and all were required to submit bathing costume shots with their CV even for nurses, cooks etc.

Many decades ago, Pacific Southwest Airlines selected young, attractive stewardesses (as they were then called) and dressed them in fetching uniforms. They lost a lawsuit and changed their policy. They now allow older flight attendants and dress them in more functional uniforms. I don’t recall whether the suit alleged age discrimination.

Many asian restaurants are family owned, and staffed by family members; no surprise that they are all asian.

I seem to recall that lots of airlines used to have a mandatory “retirement” age for flight attendants that had more to do with simple youthful sex appeal than with the ability to do the job. I think the difference is this: A large part of job of a sales clerk, model, or company spokesperson is to project a particular image, and I really don’t see any problem with that.

The primary purpose of a flight attendant is (at least in theory) to keep the passengers safe, provide direction in case of emergency, make sure passengers comply with appropriate cabin rules and so on. When they’re not doing that, of course, they sell drinks and distribute food. I could see that being too large to fit down the aisles, or too infirm to perform the tasks required would be among valid disqualifiers. Having reached the advanced age of, say, 35 or 40 should not be.

As Stemba said, a prim, conservative, middle-aged lady is unlikely to sell a lot of hip-hop records or stylish young ladies’ clothes, and would not expect to work in such a store even if she’s a really good sales person. This is not discrimination IMHO, just a fact of life.

I always like the answers that start IANAL.

Well, here’s mine.
IANAL, but I recall reading that as long as the discrimination does not involve a protected class (race, sex, national origin, etc) then you are free to discriminate as much as you want. In this case, A&F are running into a problem with hiring white sales staff. How do the modeling agencies get away with hiring only pretty people? Ugly is not a protected class.

Just to quibble a bit, there are many large restaurants around where I live and there is no way the staff is all family members. But you’re right about the really small ones.

Mostly agreeing with Stemba & MLS here. But I just want to add - for those who disagree: if you take a look at any Black media publication (e.g. Ebony, Jet et al) you will notice that the vast majority of the models pictured in the ads are Black. Can’t be coincidence. So the question is if that constitutes ilegal discrimination, and - if it does not - how it might differ from hiring only Whites at A&F?

Regarding restaurants: I also wonder if restaurants owned by recent immigrants often use a language other than English in the kitchen. It’d be perfectly acceptable to require job applicants to be fluent in (for example) Chinese, so that they could communicate with the (for example) non-English-speaking cook, and such a requirement would cut down pretty drastically on the number of non-Chinese people getting hired.

On the subject of appearance discrimination: isn’t there an exception to the discrimination laws for jobs in which race or sex is integral to the part? For example, if I applied to play the part of Harriet Tubman in a new movie about her life, the director could turn me down based on my race and sex and age without worrying about a discrimination lawsuit. Can somebody detail the parameters of this exception to anti-discrimination laws?


The difference, IzzyR, is that Ebony and Jet are magazines aimed specifically for black people. Is A&F specfically aimed for white people?

You know, this was the first thing I thought of when I saw this thread:

The law does make exceptions for jobs where physical attractiveness is their selling point, which is why the Hooters lawsuit was dismissed. (For those link-haters, the $22 million suit was brought by four ugly, overweight men who were denied waitress positions.) I’ve seen black and other non-white waitresses at Hooters, so obviously they were safe on that point.

I really can’t say if such a thing would apply to mall stores like Abercrombie and The Gap. They’d have to prove that hiring only attractive young people directly affects their bottom line. But if it’s really a case of racial discrimination, then they’re right in the same boat with Denny’s and have no wiggle room at all.

IANAL so I wont go the strictly legal point of view. But consider this:

If a store like abercrombie wishes to project an “image” of their product by using their sales people as walking talking advertisement employees, thats perfectly logical and legal (for what thats worth) and in a way (and up to a point) is sound from a business point of view. Management does set the policy with how to make a product more appealing to the potential customer.

However, the job of every store employee is basically sell the product. If a fat ugly chick …er weight and appearance challeneged female were able to sell more product than the silly bubbleheaded blue eyed preppy white trash, then she would have some grounds for a lawsuit providing she even wants to be be employed by a stuck up overly image conscious place like that, because If that woman had a history of super sales ability in spite of her appearance, then that company would be idiots not to hire her.

I thought so. But I could be wrong.

But I’m a bit unclear on your distinction in any event. What difference does it make who the target market is? The bottom line is the same - the company thinks that people of one particular race will sell more of whatever-it-is-that-they’re-selling than people of another race. Is this legitimate or not?