Surprising findings in “lookism” research

Having the right look is more important in manufacturing than you might guess, suggests research cited in the Sydney Morning Herald at the weekend.

A University of Sydney study into Victorian cases of appearance-based discrimination had some surprising results. The academics studied 1800 complaints taken to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission between 1995 and 2005. After legislation introduced by then-premier Jeff Kennett in 1995, Victoria became the only state to ban appearance-related discrimination.

Of all the industries, manufacturing had the highest proportion (14.3% of the total) of “physical features cases”, ahead of labourers and related occupations (perhaps another surprise).  

Chris Warhurst, Professor of Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney, admitted that, “The manufacturing finding really threw us.”

However, Michael Harmer, Chairman of Harmers Workplace Lawyers, was less shocked. “We get some of the worst cases of bullying, mobbing, intimidation… in sectors such as manufacturing.

“Although Victoria has the specific legislation, we run [lookism] cases across the country. It’s just that you will have to fit it into other modes of discrimination or employment rights.”

The study of workplace discrimination complaints will appear in International Journal of Work, Organisation and Emotion.