Carney R. Shegerian, founder of Shegerian & Associates, a Santa Monica-based law firm specializing in employee rights, has issued a statement aimed at all employees in light of current reports of Ralph Lauren’s firing of Filippa Hamilton, allegedly because she “was too fat.”
Ralph Lauren’s clothing company terminated Hamilton’s contract recently because she “weighed too much,” the model told reporters last week.
Shegerian warns that while discrimination based on physical appearance can in many cases be legal, Ralph Lauren’s firing of a thin model because she was not sickly thin actually violates the law in that it discriminates against women.
“While many in the media are focusing strictly on the physical appearance aspects of this story, this is a scenario that brings up issues of discrimination against women,” said Shegerian. “While male models are typically thin,” said Shegerian, “they are rarely presented with a sickly thin presentation. Female models, like the model fired by Ralph Lauren, are being held to a different, i.e. discriminatory, standard.”
The 5-foot-10, 120-pound model, age 23, worked for Ralph Lauren since about 2002 and claims she considered the company like a second family – until she was told this past April that her services were no longer required as she was “too heavy” to wear the company’s clothes. Then two weeks ago, an advertisement featuring Hamilton’s face on a dramatically photoshopped body – made to look sickly thin – appeared in Japan. The ad caused controversy and drew the ire of critics who thought Hamilton appeared sickly and unrealistic. Then Hamilton came forward to report that she had been fired by the company months ago for being “too fat.”
“The bottom line here,” said Shegerian, “is that all employees have right to not be discriminated against or wrongfully terminated. It is critically important that we preserve fairness and equality in the workplace at all levels and in all industries and we hope other women who have been discriminated against or feel they were wrongfully terminated come forward as Ms. Hamilton did, and fight for their rights.”
As an experienced trial attorney, Carney has tried numerous jury trials in both state and federal court, always representing individuals that have suffered financial or emotional losses and have been wronged by employers, including major corporations.