Survey: Worker Appearance Proper Basis for Employment Decisions

March 23, 2005 ( - Just under four in 10 respondents in a recent poll said employers should have a right to turn away a potential employee based on appearance - weight, clothing, piercing, body art or hairstyle.

The survey by the Employment Law Alliance found that of the 39% of those who supported appearance-based hiring and promotion, men outnumbered women 46% to 32%, while whites outnumbered non-whites 41% to 24%. The poll found that just over a third, (33%) said physically attractive employees at their companies are more likely to get a job offer or be pushed up through the company’s ranks.

However 33% asserted that workers who are unattractive, overweight, or generally look or dress unconventionally should be given special government legal protection like that already provided to the disabled.

Employees’ appearance may be affecting their career trajectory at many firms around the country, but more than half of respondents said their firms had no formal policy addressing employees’ personal appearance.

Other poll results included that

  • 16% said they had been the victim of appearance-based discrimination. Of those, 38% said the discrimination was based on their overall appearance while 31% said it was their weight and 14% said it was a reaction to their hairstyle. Just over a third (33%) said they had been discriminated against for some other reason.
  • Supervisors and managers are much more likely than non-supervisors to support a policy permitting companies to regulate personal appearance. Some 47% of the supervisors surveyed said employers should have the right to deny employment based on looks, while 35% of the non-supervisors supported that position.

The America At Work poll questioned 1,000 Americans on their views on appearance-based discrimination. The survey was conducted for the Employment Law Alliance by the Media, Pennsylvania market research firm of Reed, Haldy, McIntosh & Associates.

The Employment Law Alliance is a group of law firms specializing in employment and labor issues. More information about the poll is at .