Earlier this week, the dating website BeautifulPeople.com managed to grab international headlines after it launched a recruitment portal that provides employers with only “attractive” job applicants.

The controversy and legal questions surrounding this story serve as a stark reminder for fashion companies of the legal risks involved with appearance-based hiring. Understandably, fashion retailers want store employees to look good when wearing branded merchandise. But these retailers must be aware of the fine legal line they are walking when they decide that public-facing employees must also serve as de facto brand ambassadors.

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For this episode of Fashion Counsel, Anthony Lupo talks with Arent Fox Labor & Employment partner Michael Stevens, who has advised and defended clients on discrimination matters for more than two decades. Mr. Lupo and Mr. Stevens discuss the liabilities employers are exposed to when staffing choices involve considerations of weight, age, nationality, parental status, and other potentially perilous classifications. In the video interview posted above, Mr. Stevens said:  

“Generally speaking, fashion companies want their store employees to be ambassadors of the brand. They often ask them to dress in their clothes and act in a certain manner that is consistent with the brand. In general, I don’t think there is anything wrong with companies looking for employees who can wear their clothes and look good in their clothes, as long as they don’t do that in a discriminatory manner.”

Fashion Counsel is Arent Fox’s online resource for legal news, analysis and event information. It offers new video features monthly addressing topics and issues of interest to the fashion industry including designers, retailers, and manufacturers of luxury goods.