Once in a while, a news story pops up about an employee who believes she lost a job or faced discrimination in the workplace for looking either too beautiful or not beautiful enough in the eyes of the employer. Federal law prohibits discriminating against employees for their age, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability. Absent from that list is an employee’s looks. Therefore, many people wonder if they can truly face discrimination or have their employment terminated based on being considered too pretty or not pretty enough.
California has at-will employment
Generally speaking, courts do not recognize discrimination based on looks. That has especially been the case in California, which uses at-will employment. The benefit of this to employees is that they can quit for any reason at any time. The downside is that employees can lose their jobs just as easily. The exception here is, of course, if terminated employment is due to one of the factors mentioned in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or of the Fair Housing and Employment Act in California.
Options employees have
Employees can always seek legal action against an employer if they believe they suffered discrimination in the workplace. An argument could be made on the basis of a beautiful woman losing her job due to her gender. That was the case for a dental assistant who lost her job for being too pretty after 10 years of good work. However, the court shot it down on the belief she actually lost her position due to her relationship with her employer. It is a tricky area of law, but it is one some lawmakers want to change.
Although the state of California does not recognize looks for employee discrimination, the cities of San Francisco and Santa Cruz do. Other parts of the country are passing similar laws, so soon people may not have to worry about how their looks will affect job prospects.