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Urbana Most Progressive City on Banning Discriminatory Hiring Practices: Study

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Illinois City Leads Way in Handling Unfair Hiring Practices

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SAN DIEGO, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Job searchers interview with company representitives during a career fair at the Convention Center on February 5, 2010in San Diego, California. The U.S. may lose 824,000 jobs when the government releases its annual revision to employment data on Feb. 5, showing the labor market was in worse shape during the recession than known at the time. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

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We like to think of ourselves as a fairly progressive society, but there's still quite a ways to go when it comes to hiring practices. At least as Illinoisans we have some bragging rights: Urbana has been leading the pack when it comes to banning discriminatory hiring practices pertaining to weight biases.

For nearly two decades it's been illegal there for employers to discriminate against the overweight, and what's more, a report from the Minnesota Department of Humans Rights indicates there's never been a claim filed there against an employer on that front. From the report:

"Up until this year, we have not any personal appearance charges, at least that I know of," says [Todd Rent, the Urbana human relations officer who enforces its anti-discrimination law]. He has been on the job for three years, but checked with the individual who was the city's human relations officer for 15 years before him, and she could not remember any either. The city ordinance is more than 18 years old, but records going back that far are not available."
That's great. But you know what isn't? Urbana is bafflingly only one of six American cities to have such a policy in effect. There's only one state to implement the policy, and that's Michigan. But it hasn't had the same unassailable effect there, as earlier this year a Michigan Hooters employee asserted it was illegal for the restaurant to allegedly tell her "she had to lose weight to improve her looks, or be fired."

As this pertains more directly to hiring, though, there's further, less encouraging news: A recent Rice University study indicates that people with facial blemishes like scars or birthmarks are less likely to land jobs. The Sun-Times has a great breakdown of this discouraging study.

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