Discrimination happens all around us, and in many different forms. When it comes to being employed, there are laws in place to protect us against certain methods of discrimination. According to a website used by many lawyers, businesses, and individuals, discrimination is “Unfair treatment or denial of normal privileges to persons because of their race, age, sex, nationality or religion” (“Discrimination”). However, there is nothing specifically to protect us when it comes to our appearance. As children in the U.S., we are raised with a certain idea of what being attractive is. People who are overweight, have tattoos, or even body piercings are usually perceived as not being attractive or are less qualified based on looks alone. Workplace discrimination based on appearance should not be allowed. The federal laws should be expanded to allow protection from being discriminated against based on appearances in employment.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency whose primary role is to be “responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information” (“Enforcement and Litigation”). The EEOC’s website states that “the law forbids discrimination in every aspect of employment,” but, nowhere is there protection offered for appearance based discrimination (“Prohibited Practices”).
Knowing that our outward appearance plays such a significant role in getting and keeping a job, appearance discrimination should be added into the more general protected category of discrimination. In an article written by three law professors from Nova Southeastern University on this subject, it is stated that “magazines and television programs that illustrate America’s obsession with appearance overrun society. Consequently, employers realize that looks do matter, and their hiring decisions reflect this simple fact.” (Cavico, Muffler, and Mujtaba). This allows any business to ultimately look at the applicants and decide if they look good enough to hire. As noted by an experienced law clerk, “The American public is inundated with messages about appearance: as an individual, you are told both what you should look like, and then what harm will come from either not meeting that standard or trying to meet that prescribed standard of beauty” (Alsgaard 142). Our society makes it very difficult to look at someone and not base our personal opinions off of first impressions. If it can be believed that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”, than our governing agencies need to set forth more concrete guidelines to avoid prejudices against individuals who are not considered as attractive as others.
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