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Is It Racial Discrimination When You Don’t Fit The Job?

May 2, 2012

I read an article in the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel last night where an up market yacht company rejected an applicant for a job, telling her that she “might not fit in with the clientele because she was black and overweight”.

The woman is now suing the yacht company for racial discrimination, and while the company ought to have been rather more diplomatic in the way that they rejected her, sometimes appearance as well as other factors do count when you are looking to employ someone.

In all honesty, the appearance of front line personnel in a company can make a huge difference in sales and whether they are successful in getting prime business or not.  Factors include the looks of the employee, the way that they dress, their personality, and their accent too.

An attractive person is more likely to be employed on the reception desk of a company than a plain or homely one, because when it comes to business, first impressions count, and if employing a good looking receptionist could make a potential difference in whether a company succeeds in getting a new client or not, what would you do if you were that company?

The same rule applies to jobs where a person might be heard but not seen, like a telephone support role.   How often have you reacted in a negative way to a company because when you called them you ended up speaking to someone with a thick accent?

Now a thick accent of course does not mean that that person was a foreigner or non-white.  It could equally be that they came from a rural area and had a strong local accent, which clients could not understand.  That can lose you business, or at least give your company a negative rating.

I have worked in an environment like that, where employees from a small town in rural England were manning a software help desk and had clients in Central and South America.  Not only did the clients in Hispanic countries not understand what they were saying and vice versa, the clients in Jamaica, Bahamas and Barbados fared no better.

Sometimes it’s a case of “horses for courses” and looks, appearance, accent, race and even religion can be a factor in whether a person is suitable for a job with a company or not.

In these times of economic doom and gloom, a company sometimes has to make decisions that can affect it’s survival, but obviously it needs to be done in the right way.

Well I have taken one side of the argument.  What are your feelings on this and which side of the fence do you sit on?

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  1. To answer your question: No, it isn’t. While employers have to be extremely careful to abide by the EEOC (here in the states–I am sure the UK has something similar), there is still some room for common sense. In the case of the unfortunate woman in Florida, I was relieved to see in the article that the employer wasn’t so stupid as to deliberately tell the woman her race and weight were the reasons she wasn’t hired: it was communicated to her by a company employee in a mid-directed e-mail. That was unfortunate, and just goes to show you to check those e mails very carefully before you hit “send.”

    • Yes the laws are very similar here in the UK. It definitely pays to check and double check what you are sending, since once you hit that button…

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