Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Friday, August 01, 2003

Eyebrow Ring v. Prohibition On Discrimination On Basis of Physical Appearance - Who Wins?

Madison, Wisconsin has its own Title VII type ordinance which includes physical appearance as a protected category. Sam's Club's prohibition against nose rings or other facial jewelry ran squarely against Tonya Maier's desire to wear a ring through her eyebrow to work, which ultimately led to her discharge. Although she convinced the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission that she had been discriminated against, when the Commission pursued judicial enforcement on her behalf, it was not so successful. The trial court, after considering expert testimony on the type of image that Sam's Club was trying to present (conservative), found it had established the affirmative defense in the statute. Sam's Club v. Madison Equal Opportunities Commission (Wisc. Ct. App. - 7/24/03). The defense allows rules if there is a reasonable business purpose.

Maybe it's the heat of summer, but it sure seems that there are a lot of cases recently which do nothing to bolster one's confidence that we have our priorities straight in the ways judicial resources get allocated. Which is not a comment at all on the judiciary who must deal with what comes before them.


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