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I’m Fugly, and I Won’t Be Your Waiter Tonight

The food industry employs 10 percent of the American workforce, and many restaurants are breaking anti-discrimination laws by requiring applicants to submit head shots—which means, if you're ugly, you might not get hired.

Do you need to have sex appeal to serve? Photo via Flickr user zoetnet

When going out for a meal at a restaurant, do you really give a shit if your server is attractive or average-looking? Is it imperative that she have large breasts that jiggle as she scribbles down your order, or that he’s so handsome you’ll force yourself to eat something healthy?

Do you enjoy bossing good-looking people around? If the answer is yes, please enjoy eating a TV dinner at home on your sofa, because you’re an asshole, and you shouldn't be dining out. Anywhere.

There are only three things that matter in a restaurant: the food, the drinks, and the service. These three elements can trump almost any situation, and everything else should be considered a minor factor. Your server, host, bartender, or back waiter’s appearance—unless he or she has a racist tattoo or is commiting some sort of health-code violation with an open sore—is completely irrelevant to the outcome of how your food will taste.  

In order to succeed in the restaurant world, you don’t have to hire “sexy” waiters, but certain restaurants and bars—in New York and nationwide—require head shots from job applicants. And that’s straight-up illegal. These establishments range from accolade-winning fine-dining venues to vegetarian joints and tourist traps. Instead of worrying about their customers being served by aesthetically pleasing people, these restaurateurs should focus on making sure that their food is legit and the service staff is competent. 

Unless the job is an acting or modeling gig, no business has the legal right to ask for a photo of anyone applying to work for them. According to David Helbraun, Esq., one of the managing partners at the esteemed Helbraun Levey & O’Donoghue, doing so is in direct violation of anti-discrimination laws like the NYS Human Rights Law, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “The implication is that an employer may use the photograph in discriminating against an applicant for impermissible reasons such as age, race, gender, or perhaps religion (if a visible symbol is worn in the picture),” says Helbraun.

Then throw in the personal partialities and preferences of restaurant management, and you’re looking at a big bowl of discrimination stew. 

A screenshot of a recent job posting on Craigslist for an East Village restaurant.

The food industry employs ten 10 percent of the American workforce. These 13.5 million workers come from a vast array of backgrounds and are at very different points in their lives. But whether they’re college students working part-time or are close to retirement after spending their entire life in the office workforce, exuding sex appeal to customers while carrying a heavy tray of piping hot food to unnattractive customers is the last priority when they clock-in for their shift. 

But there is another facet to this issue, as many job-seekers unsolicitedly send photos with their résumés. A word of advice for all of you that do so: stop.

No, seriously: stop.

Submitting a photo when you’re applying for a restaurant job only does a huge disservice to your sense of self-worth and (possibly) your chances of getting hired. If a company didn’t ask for your photo, having one unexpectedly pop-up in an email with your application is neither welcomed nor appreciated. Yes, we are living in the age of the selfie, but leave the shameless picture-taking out of your job search. If your prospective employer was really that curious about how you looked, I’m sure he could always just find your drunken party photos on the multitude of social media accounts you've joined. 

In 2014, we all witness the shitshow of the digital footprint people leave behind, choosing to provide misleading thumbnail photos of themselves for your next Google search. Unless you want to know what the face of disappointment looks like when your interviewers calls you in for a meeting, don’t get their hopes up.

Follow Tae Yoon on Twitter.