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Can You Be Fired for Being “Too Cute?”

It sounds like a plot to a bad TV show, but for one woman in New York City, it was the reason she was fired from her job. Dilek Edwards was a yoga instructor and massage therapist for a chiropractor. Edwards stated that her relationship with her former boss was completely professional. She met his wife, Adams, also the co-owner of his practice, after a year and a half in her position. Her boss mentioned that his wife thinks Edwards is “too cute” for the job.

Over a year later, Adams fired Edwards through text message. In the message, Adams added that Edwards should stay away from her husband and family. It is easy to argue that Edwards was fired due to her attractive appearance. Most people can agree that it is unfair to be fired from your job due to how attractive you are to your boss.

But was it discriminatory? What was Edwards’ claim against her employer for wrongful termination?

“Attractive Females are Not a Protected Class Under Anti-Discrimination Laws.”

Discrimination laws tend to be controlled by the federal government. However, individual states may add state laws, so long as they do not conflict with federal regulation. New York State added protection for groups not protected under the federal law. Under both New York and the federal law, neither has specified protection for individuals due to an attractive appearance. In Edwards’ case, her claim went before the state court. Sexual Harassment

Edwards argued that her claim is based on gender discrimination. She claimed was fired due to her “gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression.” But the court disagreed. Instead, they found that gender discrimination protection only applies to individuals discriminated due to gender identity or transgender issues. Whether an employer found an employee appealing is not part of gender discrimination.

The court determined that attractive persons are not considered a protected class, so Edwards has no legal claim against her former employer.

Similar cases were brought to state courts across the nation. So far, every outcome has rejected the concept of creating a protected class for attractive persons. If there are some instances of discrimination, why shouldn’t they be protected?

A Class is Protected Due to Inherent and Persistent Disadvantages

The outcome of Edwards’ claim does not sit well with most people. The idea that a person can be fired or discriminated against due to something out of their control seems to be the very backbone of anti-discrimination laws. But at the same time, the idea that being too attractive means you deserve special protection does not sit well with many people.

We live in a world where being attractive is often an advantage. The logic behind anti-discrimination protection is that certain groups of people face regular discrimination due to belonging to that group. It does not seem like attractive people fit the need for class protection.

Also, the protected classes are protected due to an immutable characteristic (except for religion). A person born in a different country cannot change the fact they were born in that country. It’s also not something that can be debated or be something else. A woman born in Australia cannot be interpreted to be born elsewhere. In contrast, attractiveness is mostly subjective and whether one is attractive often differs from person to person. While society may have some sort of standard, it always falls to the perceiver to determine if the other person is attractive.

What will always set attractive persons apart from the protected classes is that it is tends to be a positive quality. Studies show that attractive people are paid more, are considered more persuasive, more trustworthy, and are more likable. While these may seem to be trivial qualities, these are qualities that almost none of the protected classes can share.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

At the moment, the legal system’s definition of gender discrimination is expanding. It has only been recently applied to individuals dealing with gender identity issues or are transsexual. Before, it was applied to heterosexual men or women who faced discriminated due to their gender.

However, for all of the above reasons, it is very unlikely that attractive persons will become a protected class. They faced discrimination due to the insecurities of a small number of people, not because their attraction limits their ability to enjoy and progress through life. Things may change over time, but due to the way society can overly favor an attractive individual, it is unlikely that attractive people can become a protected class.

Janice Lim

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