Can my employer let me go based on physical appearance?

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Can my employer let me go based on physical appearance?

I have gauged ears and was hired with them. My boss informed me that I need to wear unnoticeable jewelry I bought clear ones. Four months later they ask me to stop wearing any type of jewelry I haven’t worn any since. Days later I am informed that I cannot return to work until I cover them up and that I have one week to do so. Am I being discriminated against?

Asked on March 10, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Hawaii

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, you are not being discriminated against--at least, not from a legally actionable point of view. Only certain forms of discrimination are actually made illegal; the chief ones, which are prohibited by federal law, are race, religion, age over 40, sex/gender, or disability. However, there is no protection for body art, piercings, and the like, even if the art/piercings is of a type which is difficult to cover up or undo, such as tatoos or gauged ears. Employers may refuse to hire--or, having hired, terminate--employees on account of gauged ears or other body art/piercings.


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