Case Analysis: Is Hiring on the Basis of “Looks” Justifiable or Discriminatory

Case Analysis: Is Hiring on the Basis of “Looks” Justifiable or Discriminatory


The case revolves around A&F Company and the legality of their hiring policy. The company has set various standards that individuals seeking employment must have in order to be accepted. These standards tend to focus on physical appearance. Individuals that do not meet the standards end up not being employed regardless of their qualification. Some of them that are lucky enough to gain employment end up being deployed in areas that are less desirable and far from the public eyes. This does not go well with the affected individuals. They have resulted in filling various lawsuits, most of which have succeeded. A&F has resulted in paying substantial settlements in the process. However, they do not accept that they are guilty of breaching any law as they enhance their business model.

Issue Identification

The central facts of the case are that A&F is using a business model that is not going well with several stakeholders. The model seems to work for the company since it has been used for a long time now. There are other stakeholders that are standing by the model. This includes the company’s representatives and retailers. The company sees their business model as a way of building a brand that people will recognize them with. Another fact from the case is that the practices of A&F have varied consequences. This is because there is inclusion of the court system in order to determine whether the company’s actions involve breaching of any employment law.

The major overriding issue is identifying whether the hiring technique employed by A&F is justifiable or discriminatory. A&F looks for certain physical characteristics in order to determine whether an individual is qualified to work for the company. The “looks” tend to lock-out some job seekers that qualify for employment based on the job description. Legal system is involved in trying to find out whether the policies used are in line with the relevant laws. There is a provision that a company should not turn down employment of an individual on the basis of his or her race, national origin or color.

Other sub-issues that merit consideration include A&F maintaining what works for the company. Their hiring strategy ensures that employees carry along the image of the company. They are the brand representatives and help in ensuring that A&F operates profitably and remains viable to its consumers. Abandoning the strategy might result to losing some of the consumers. Another issue revolves around the individuals that are affected by this policy negatively. They might end up being affected psychologically, which results to low self esteem while seeking other employment opportunities in future.

Analysis and Evaluation

The stakeholders in the case include A&F Company, law firms, courts and job seekers. A&F is faced with the challenge of acting ethically towards individuals that are seeking employment and maintaining their business model. This model is the reason why they are profitable at the moment. Job seekers that are discriminated based on their looks during the hiring process pose a threat to the company. They have resulted in filling lawsuits that are costing A&F a lot of money. This means the company is necessitated to adopt other techniques like increasing the price of their products in order to cover the costs. Law firms and courts also present a threat to the company. This is because they are involved in the settlements that are causing the company huge amounts of money.

The company has an economic responsibility of operating profitably in order to enhance employment of more personnel. It has the legal responsibility of ensuring that it upholds the rights of the employees. An ethical responsibility arises on not using discriminatory policies in the hiring process. The nature and extent of the responsibilities is that they seem to contradict in a way. A&F using a model that works for them in generating more profits helps in fulfilling the economic responsibility, but ends up breaching  ethical and legal responsibilities hence their hiring policy ins discriminatory in some way.

A&F has not tried to find long-term solutions for the lawsuits being held against them.  Reviewing the hiring policy would be a way to begin with since the lawsuits will result to increased costs, which will diminish the profitability aspect.


There is a dilemma on whether to change the hiring policy since it working for the company at the moment. However, the company should review the policy, and find a way of employing it in a way that does not seem discriminatory. This is because changing the policy on the type of employees that the company wants might affect operations due to the brand already established. Putting the policies in a way that does not seem discriminatory will deny plaintiffs any ground for legal suits.


There are several things to learn from the case. One is that if a business model is working for a company, it does not mean it will not bring about negative implications. A&F model ensures numerous consumers which mean huge profits, but also brings along lawsuits that result to high settlement fees.


Carroll, A., & Buchholtz, A. (2011). Business and Society: Ethics, Sustainability, and         Stakeholder Management. New York: Cengage Learning.