What Is “Face Equality?”

Interesting story out of Hong Kong.

Seems that burn victims, who formed a self-help group after a wildfire in 1996 killed 5 teachers and students and left many injured students permanently disfigured, are calling for “face equality” – that is, discrimination protection for those whose burned faces hinder or prevent their ability to find employment.

Depression, Woman, Burn, Dark Thoughts

“For, despite what can be shocking challenges, they are not usually classified as disabled and so are not well protected by disability discrimination laws. That leaves them up against discrimination in the jobs market. The idea of face equality has been promoted by Britain for more than 20 years and by Taiwan for at least 10 years.”

The article noted that “Although the Disability Discrimination Ordinance is applicable to the facially disfigured … the protection is limited as it is difficult to prove that someone has been rejected because of appearance.”

One university staff member “speaks from painful and bitter experience. Burnt when a child, she recalled an employer telling her she was qualified for a job but she could only get it if other colleagues did not find her appearance terrifying. Still, she added, people will at least show ‘sympathy’ to burns victims as their scars are visible. But other facially disfigured people are less lucky, especially sufferers of neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on nerve tissues.”

This is a very sad situation for people who have suffered greatly — but at least they have formed support groups and are able to band together to call for equal rights.  Given the polarization in the US, do you think that this group would get much traction here?


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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]