From the No, We’re Not Kidding File: The Boston office of the EEOC has been investigating a chain of coffeehouses because of its alleged practice of hiring attractive young women as servers. Here’s the odd part: Nobody’s filed a complaint. The agency has undertaken the probe on its own initiative.
So it looks as though we can add yet another item to the EEOC’s hit list: Beauty discrimination.
The agency’s rationale for the probe: The “Commission-initiated investigation” was begun because “it’s possible that applicants or employees may not know they’ve been discriminated against, based on their age or any factor, EEOC official Robert Sanders told the Boston Herald.
The company is Marylou’s Coffee, a chain of Massachusetts coffee shops. According to the Herald story, the agency contacted two of Marylou’s rejected job applicants — aged 42 and 55 — and asked them if they’d be willing to join a class-sction lawsuit against the chain.
Actually, there are some spots in the U.S. where discrimination based on appearance is legally banned. According to James McDonald, writing on the Fisher & Phillips blog, Washington, D.C.’s anti-bias statute prohibits discrimination based on “personal appearance.” Michigan bans discrimination based on height and weight; San Francisco has a similar law.
And Santa Cruz, CA bans discrimination based on “physical characteristics,” according to McDonald.
The EEOC beauty bias probe’s drawn a lot of gunfire from business leaders. The Herald story quotes David Andelman of the Restaurant and Business Alliance: “It’s outrageous.
“Imagine if the framers of the Constitution knew that federal agents would show up from Washington to Massachusetts for the supposed crime of hiring pretty girls to pour your tea. The framers would take bayonets to each of their throats.”
The best comment we’ve read on the situation comes from Michael Haberman of Omega HR Solutions, who asked: “Who wants to be the first to stand up and say, ‘I’m ugly enough to be in a protected category’?”