Gavel to Gavel: The ugly truth

The Journal Record
By Adam Childers
Sept. 15, 2011

I was talking to a friend the other day about Hollywood actor George Clooney. My friend remarked that she was quite certain that he was a really good and decent human being. When I pressed her for specific reasons why, she said “he just looks like a nice guy.”

It was symptomatic of a broader issue that impacts all of society and our workplaces. Most people are prone to engaging in beauty bias. With all due respect to Clooney, who probably really is a stand-up citizen, a number of scientific studies suggest that we tend to view good-looking people as more likeable, intelligent and even more morally sound than their uglier counterparts.

But what happens when the divide between the gorgeous and gross results in different treatment at work? Beauty bias can also result in disparate treatment of the office’s resident ugly ducklings.

Currently, there is just one state and a handful of local jurisdictions across the country that have any laws on the books that prohibit discrimination based on beauty. Oklahoma has no such law, nor are there any current legislative plans for such a statute. However, you would be wise to at least consider the possibility that beauty, or the lack thereof, could be motivating decisions in your workplace, and if so, take steps to safeguard against the disparate treatment of those who fall into protected categories. After all, we can’t all look like George Clooney, even as hard as I keep hopelessly trying.

Adam W. Childers is a director with Crowe & Dunlevy’s Labor and Employment Section in Oklahoma City. He can be reached at (405) 235-7741 or by e-mail at
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