Employment discrimination based on looks is a complicated and potentially very dangerous practice for employers to engage in. In hiring, it is not technically illegal to reject a candidate based on his or her appearance. However, it is extremely risky for a number of reasons.

Federal law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion and disability status. Again, general appearance alone is not a protected category. But when you consider the ways in which a person in a protected category might be discriminated against, it’s important to recognize that what’s being noticed is often what’s immediately visible to the potential employer in a face-to-face interview.

In other words, something like skin color might indicate a likely racial classification to an employer. Certain attire might be indicative of membership in a particular religious group. Physical disability may be inferred from the use of a wheelchair, a limp or other physical signs. Sex and age are often apparent to the observer. All of these are cases in which appearance and protected status may be closely linked.

For this reason, too, an employer who asks for a picture with your application is treading on thin ice from a legal standpoint. Being able to prove that failing to grant an interview to an otherwise highly qualified applicant was not based on appearance — and presumably on one’s membership in a protected group — can be quite difficult.

Because appearance-based discrimination may be perceived as discrimination of other sorts, individuals who believe they’ve been singled out based on their appearance should consult an experienced attorney. Contact the trusted New York City employment discrimination lawyers with Derek Smith Law Group in Manhattan.