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Understanding appearance discrimination in the workplace

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination

Appearance discrimination occurs when employers treat workers unjustly due to their looks. Points of contention may include body type, hairstyle, tattoos or fashion sense.

Although companies have a right to impose dress codes that promote professionalism, these standards must never contain prejudicial policies.

What counts as appearance discrimination?

On-the-job appearance discrimination takes many forms. Employees might receive negative comments or less favorable treatment because of their outward appearance or clothing that reflects ethnic identities.

Employers sometimes enforce dress codes that do not account for the cultural or personal significance of particular hairstyles or attire. Banning hairdos such as braids or dreadlocks, often worn by people of African descent, can be a form of racial discrimination. Similarly, requiring staff to conform to particular dress standards is sometimes a point of contention, particularly with people who wear garments for religious reasons.

What are the impacts on the workplace?

Discriminating based on appearance can degrade the corporate atmosphere. Decreased employee morale and productivity are natural outcomes. If workers feel they are not valued because of their appearance, they are less likely to do their best work and may even quit.

Moreover, a company that ignores appearance discrimination might find it hard to attract and keep a multicultural workforce. Corporate diversity is valuable as it brings different perspectives and ideas, which can lead to better problem solving and innovation.

How does one promote a fair work environment?

Employers must review their dress codes and policies to be sure they do not target specific groups. Human resource departments should also provide training for management to prevent unconscious biases from influencing decisions.

Bosses may further support diversity by encouraging open communication. Employees need to feel comfortable discussing their concerns about dress codes and appearance expectations. A healthy dialogue can spark adjustments that are acceptable to everyone.

Eliminating appearance discrimination is a goal that every organization should strive to achieve. Promoting equality also enhances a venture’s reputation, thus attracting a wider pool of job applicants.


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