Discrimination: is the next big thing ‘lookism’?

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By Kevin McCavish

Not for the first time the fashion industry is under fire for its recruitment policies. Could requiring staff to have a certain ‘look’ be the next form of discrimination?

It was reported last week that US clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is being investigated by the French human rights watchdog over claims that it hires only good-looking staff. An official claimed that the company appears ‘to base its recruitment methods on discriminatory criteria and particularly on physical appearance’. While the outcome of the investigation won’t be known until the end of the year, should retailers and other employers in the UK be concerned about this development?

Many organisations would argue that they wish to employ staff who embrace and reflect their brand image and, superficially, that sounds reasonable. Abercrombie & Fitch undoubtedly has a young, aspirational target market and some might consider the strategy of having bare-chested male assistants in store to pose for photographs with young female customers a stroke of marketing genius…

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