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Teen barista

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On a bitterly cold day, Josh, like many other teenagers, traveled many miles to get to the coffee shop, where he works part-time. Despite experiencing car troubles, nearly having a car accident, and spending hours in heavy traffic, he arrived at the coffee shop only to do a double shift, carry heavy loads of garbage in the cold, and deal with a hectic day of selling hot beverages to demanding customers.

Even though his school was in session, he chose to come to work instead of going to class at the local college, where he is getting his degree in theater and humanities. When I asked him why he chose his work over his studies, he told me they need him here: “Nobody notices when I am not [in class].” Unlike at school, they notice him at work. He feels needed—like a hot cup of cocoa on a cold day.

Josh, like many other teenagers, works “part-time” while still in school, but do not be fooled by what he calls part-time work. “Part-time” sounds like a few hours of work scattered throughout the week, but he was at the coffee shop every day of the past week. Even on the days when he was not scheduled to work, he stopped by to hang out with his friends. He did not just stand idly by; he also helped the friends who were working.

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With battles won over sex and race discrimination in the past, and more recently over disability and sexual preference, it may be that lookism becomes the next frontier in the battle against employment discrimination. Studies on both sides of the Atlantic have revealed both a beauty premium and a beauty penalty. Workers perceived to be better looking are more likely to be hired, to turn in better workplace performances, receive better pay and have better career prospects. Conversely those workers perceived to be average or worse looking receive less pay, are regarded as poorer performers, have more stunted careers and are more likely to lose their jobs.

Over the past few months, British media types have been convulsed in a debate about lookism. It started when a columnist in the Daily Mail newspaper, Quentin Letts, commented derogatively on the looks of a 60 year old female government minister. She was, Letts admitted, good looking for her age but because of the glop that she slapped onto her face at night.

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