There was story in the National Post last weekend reporting on a study by some American scholars on the relationship between body shape and earnings. The study found that
Thin women earned about US$16,000 more a year on average. In contrast, thin men earned about $8,000 less than their more muscular male co-workers…. [R]esearch has shown that if you have two resumes, if all other qualifications make the candidates equal, the more physically attractive one — whether it’s a skinny woman or a muscle-y man — will have the leg up.”
In other words, physical appearance influences success at work. What do you think explains this result? Do you think this is wrong? If so, do you think it is something that the law can fix? How would it do that?
I’ve asked before whether our human rights legislation should prohibit discrimination on the basis of “physical appearance”. Right now, Canadian human rights statutes do not. That means that employer can discriminate against applicants and employees on the basis that they are not “pretty enough” or “thin enough” or “muscular enough”, unless those criteria indirectly discriminate on the basis of another prohibited ground. For example, if by “not pretty enough”, the employer means “not white enough”, then that would be discrimination on the basis of skin colour. But if the employer just thinks that one woman is “prettier” than another, or has a “nicer body” than another, and race, ethnicity, or disability are not issues, then distinguishing on the basis of physical appearance is perfectly legal in Canada.
See my earlier discussion about the Hooters’ restaurant in Michigan that placed two women servers on “weight probation” and told to go to the gym. I noted that the human rights complaint filed by those servers might be successful in Michigan, where “weight” is included as a prohibited ground in the human rights legislation. Since “weight” is not a prohibited ground in Ontario, is there anything in the human rights code to stop an employer from telling an employee to lose weight or be fired? Look at the list of prohibited grounds in Section 5 of the Code. Would any apply to discrimination on the basis of “weight” or “body shape”?
Other related posts on this topic:
Can an Employer discriminate against me because I am too ugly? [And a Globe and Mail piece that reported on this post]
Can an Employer fire me for being too sexy?