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More Than Just A Blemish In Workplace Discrimination

By Bailey Mosier
 
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When we think of discrimination in the workplace, we often assume it’s related to race, gender, religion, age or sex.

Across all categories, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that employment discrimination charge filings reached a record high in 2010 throughout the country. Preliminary EEOC data for 2011 indicates this year’s numbers may be even further ahead of 2010.

Discrimination is happening and being reported in large quantities, but not every case involves sex, gender, religion or national origin.

Researchers from Rice University and the University of Houston found people with birthmarks, scars and other facial blemishes are being discriminated against in job interviews, and are having a tougher time landing jobs.

The researchers say this is because interviewers can be distracted by unusual facial features, recall less information about job candidates and thus, have an overall decreased evaluation of the prospects.

One experiment by the Rice University researchers involved 170 undergraduate students who conducted mock interviews via a computer while their eye activity was tracked. The team found that “the more the interviewers' attention was distracted by facial blemishes, the less they remembered about the job candidate and the lower they rated them,” according to a release on the study.

“In a second experiment, 38 full-time managers conducted face-to-face interviews with job candidates who had a facial birthmark. All the managers had experience interviewing people for jobs but were still distracted by the birthmarks,” according to a release on the study.

No matter if the interviewer was an inexperienced college student or a real-world, experienced manager, this study showed that facial blemishes were distracting and directly affected one’s chances for landing a job. The interviewer is too busy concentrating on -- or trying not to concentrate on -- someone’s facial blemishes, their competency and ability to perform the task at hand gets lost in translation.

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