Over the last half-century, lawmakers in the U.S. have barred discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, age, disability, and, in many places, sexual orientation. But bias based on physical appearance remains the nation's last bastion of acceptable bigotry, says Deborah L. Rhode in The Washington Post. In a 2005 poll, 16 percent of American workers claimed their appearance had led superiors to discriminate against them, according to the Employment Law Alliance. Sixty-two percent of overweight women surveyed by the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance said they had been turned down for a job because of their weight. How good do beautiful people really have it? Here, an excerpt:

"Among the key findings of a quarter-century's worth of research: Unattractive people are less likely to be hired and promoted, and they earn lower salaries, even in fields in which looks have no obvious relationship to professional duties. (In one study, economists Jeff Biddle and Daniel Hamermesh estimated that for lawyers, such prejudice can translate to a pay cut of as much as 12 percent.) When researchers ask people to evaluate written essays, the same material receives lower ratings for ideas, style and creativity when an accompanying photograph shows a less attractive author. Good-looking professors get better course evaluations from students; teachers in turn rate good-looking students as more intelligent....

Just like racial or gender discrimination, discrimination based on irrelevant physical characteristics reinforces invidious stereotypes and undermines equal-opportunity principles based on merit and performance. And when grooming choices come into play, such bias can also restrict personal freedom."

Read the full article at The Washington Post.