Employment Discrimination Cases Based on Appearance

Are employees wrongfully terminated and denied certain roles based on their appearances? According to numerous lawsuits over the last few years, the answer is yes. The following cases cover a variety of topics including age, race, disability, and religious discrimination.

In 2007, Lester Roy was forced to leave his position as a Long Island Beach lifeguard because he refused to wear a certain type of swimwear for his annual swim test. Being over 60, he did not feel comfortable wearing a Speedo-type suit, but thought the looser board shorts or boxer-style suit would slow down his time. He wanted to wear a “jammer” suit, which resembles bike shorts and had been his outfit choice for previous annual tests. His request was denied, and without taking the test, he was no longer qualified to lifeguard at the beach. He attempted to take the new lifeguard test in 2008, but was again denied permission to wear the swimsuit of his choice. He filed a lawsuit in 2009 alleging age discrimination, saying he was forced out of his position to make room for younger lifeguards. His case was dismissed, but the decision was overturned by the Court of Appeals, so it is still pending.

In another case of modesty versus work-mandated attire, Hani Khan filed a lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch in June of this year when she was told she could no longer wear her headscarf, or hijab. In her religious discrimination claim, Ms. Khan states she was told she could wear a headscarf when she was hired as long as it matched the company’s colors. But four months later she was told to remove it and was subsequently suspended and terminated when she refused. With the help of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), LaKettra Bennett filed a claim in St. Louis against the Hollister clothing chain, a subsidiary of Abercrombie & Fitch. Ms. Bennett is Pentecostal, and women who follow this faith do not wear skirts above the knee or pants. Her lawsuit claims that she was fired from Hollister when she refused to wear shorter skirts.

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