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Physical features - Workplace

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone in the workplace because of their physical appearance, for example, height, weight, body shape, disfigurement, skin condition, scar or birthmark.

Employees are protected from discrimination at all stages of employment including recruitment, workplace terms and conditions and dismissal

Example of physical features discrimination

Kate applies for a job at fast-food company. She is the best candidate but is refused the job because the company is looking for people with a certain ‘look’, that is, a specified height, weight and build.

Are there any exceptions?

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some general exceptions. This means that discrimination may not be against the law in particular circumstances. 

There are also specific exceptions where discrimination because of physical features may be permitted including situations where:

  • it is reasonably necessary to protect the health, safety or property of any person (including the person discriminated against).
  • an employer may offer employment only to a person with particular physical features (including ‘looks’) in dramatic, artistic, entertainment, photographic or modelling performances or work.
  • participation in competitive sport may be lawfully limited to people who can effectively compete.


Employers may be vicariously liable for their employees’ acts of discrimination or sexual harassment. Employers can also be directly liable. Find out more about who is liable for discrimination and harassment.

Employers also have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible.

Complaints of discrimination made to the Commission are resolved through a process called conciliation. Find out more about our process for resolving complaints.