CRF Blog

Appearance Bias?

by Bill Hayes

Should it be against the law to discriminate against people because of their appearance? In most American jurisdictions, such discrimination is not against the law. Stanford law professor Deborah L. Rhode argues for making such discrimination illegal in her new book: The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law. She points out that where such laws exist, relatively few lawsuits occur. From a review of the book in the New York Times Book Review:

Rhode sees no backlash against such sparing enforcement. She can plausibly claim that the upshot of extending protection against appearance discrimination to other states and cities would be not a “barrage of loony litigation” but rather a solution in a limited number of rankly unfair cases. She marshals the deserving examples: a nursing school student who was expelled because officials thought her obesity made her a bad role model for patients; a bartender who was fired in Reno for refusing to wear makeup and tease her hair; a cocktail waitress who lost her job at an Atlantic City casino when her dress size increased from size 4 to size 6.