EEOC investigates coffee chain for barista beauty bias

Amidst controversy, agency denies it is seeking to extend protection to unattractive people

The Boston media stirred up a controversy this spring when they reported complaints from a popular Massachusetts coffee shop chain owner that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was on an unfounded “witch hunt,” investigating possible discrimination in the hiring practices of the chain known for its attractive young female baristas.

The reports said the EEOC had launched the investigation into Marylou’s Coffee even though it had not received a complaint of discrimination, spurred by TV commercials featuring pretty, perky white women wearing the chain’s pink shirts and black shorts.

Subjective Judgments

Regardless of the EEOC’s intent, the Marylou’s investigation publicity has reopened debate over beauty bias. In recent years, polls and academic studies have addressed the question of whether attractive people have an unfair advantage in the workplace, and some have advocated extending protection to unattractive people under the Americans with Disabilities Act or Title VII.

Senior Editor

Mary Swanton

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