Good Candidate - Hideous Teeth

A top candidate (a professional)for an opening that requires dealing personally with auditors, our corporate office, and other outside professionals has the worst teeth I have ever seen in my life. One cannot possibly look at her face without immediately zeroing in on her teeth. They are so gruesome, people conversing with her feel awkward to the point where they don't want to look at her. She is not an outside applicant; she would be transferring from one of our other companies. We feel so strongly about this issue that we want to tell her to get her teeth fixed or no transfer. I sure would appreciate suggestions on how to approach this problem. If you're wondering how she got the job she has now, she was hired by a small company that wasn't willing to pay what other candidates wanted.


  • 20 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I'll shoot one from the hip. Whenever I'm unsure what to do I always think that if I tell the truth then I don't have to worry about remembering my story.

    I think what you are wanting to do is not illegal, but I would be very clear on some things before you proceed. Are you SURE her choppers are as bad as you think. Will others agree and stand up to that assessment? Are you SURE that her teeth are as important to the job as you state? Will others agree and stand up to that assessment?

    If you are sure about both of those I would argue that you owe it to her to address it. I bet it will not surprise her that she has bad teeth. Maybe she is about to get them fixed, but she needs this raise to get it done.

    Instead of mandating it off the bat, why don't you tell her about the problem and she what she says. She might give you the solution herself. If she is otherwise a perfect fit, maybe you can defer some of her salary to go to her teeth?

    Someone may cry ADA, but I can't see that fitting.

    It's about time we got a good question up here. I was getting bored and looking for some debate.
  • Perception is reality, and it sounds like her first impression would be a bad one. We had a candidate that had similar issues........was a former employee...... he ended up having an attitude which between that and the teeth convinced us not to hire him.
    If you have to meet with people it is a legitimate concern.
    Now how to address it with her, well better you than me.........
    Honesty is the best policy. Bad teeth are not a protected class, companies can and may desire to project an image as they see fit.
    My $0.02 worth,
    DJ The Balloonman
  • I'll be the devil's advocate here. I agree that bad teeth may not be a protected class. However, if you start a conversation with her about her teeth, be prepared that she might reveal a medical condition that causes the problem (I don't know much about dentistry, but if there is a medical condition that causes people to swear profanities (Turette's Syndrome) there undoubtably is one that causes bad teeth). Once she reveals a medical condition you've got your hand in the cookie jar as far as the ADA is concerned. Now, you might argue that customer contact is a major function of the job, then she'll say that of she gets an accommodation for her "tooth disability" i.e. your company paying for thousands of dollars of dental work, and then you'll say it's and undue hardship, etc., etc.

    You could get in big ADA trouble fishing around about factors that cause certain personal appearance quirks. Even if it isn't a disability, she may argue that you "percieved" her as disabled and sue you anyway.

    I'd stay away from this discussion with her at all costs. Hire her if she has the talent for the job and cuteously ignore her teeth.

    (I agree that we need a little action around the Forum - and I apoligize if my response looks like I plagerized "If You Give A Mouse A Muffin" ... I could recite that in my sleep...)

    Anne Williams
    Attorney Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers, LLC
  • If they do not hire her, I think they are better off discussing the legitimate reason with her. If they are sure about the questions I posed, I think it is a legitamite reason. Hiding the reason could show a pretext (is that the right term???) for ANY type of discrimination. If you are not comfortable discussing the reason to her face you will not be comfortable discussing it in court.
  • How old are you kids Anne? Cause if you give a mouse a cookie, he is going to want some milk.x:D

    Good point Anne, if the teeth are enough of an issue don't even go there. "Fit" is a safer issue.

    Reality is, others are going to judge her, and your company based on those teeth.........sad but true.
    My $0.02 worth,
    DJ The Balloonman

  • My son, Hiatt, is 5, and my daughter, Sophia, is 9 months. She hasn't quite learned to appreciate the life lessons in "If You Give A Pig A Pancake" quite yet, but I sure do!

    I think that if you look to the purpose behind all anti-discrimination laws it is to prevent employers from making snap jusgements about people based on intrinsic/immutable characteristics - and instead to make decisions on ability to do the job. Now, one might argue that bad teeth isn't immutable because you can change it, but really, you are putting yourself in a position to have to defend yourself in court. And I don't care if it is protected or not, you get in front of a jury and say I didn't hire Ms. X even though she was highly qualified and the best person for the job because she had bad teeth, and you can hear the jury asking for a calculator before you get off the stand.

    Anne Williams
    Attorney Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers, LLC
  • "...if there is a medical condition that causes people to swear profanities (Turette's Syndrome) there undoubtably is one that causes bad teeth)."

    I can think of one medical condition that causes bad teeth: bulimia. That's an FYI that may not benefit this discussion, but it proves your point that there might be an underlying ADA-qualifying condition.
  • I agree with SMAce -- if she is a good applicant I would not want my competition to get her. They may end up with her because a friend there told her about the problem she fixed it and she is now your competitor. You may want to consult your attorney for the best way to proceed and stay out of the "ADA cookie jar". Some risks are worth taking.
  • Based on how you present the situation, I read that her teeth are really, really bad, and to have her meeting with the public would have a negative impact for the Company. I think you should meet with her and explain the situation at hand. Be gentle, and offer her solutions. It would involve a promotion / more $ for her, and it's a two way street. I guess I respectfully disagree with Anne Williams on this one, and I stress that her teeth must be really, really bad.
    Do you have a dental plan ?
    By the sounds of it, some of the Dental work could be considered Medical.
    As a final thought - is it a bona-fide occupational qualification ? I would opine that it is, for the good of the business.
    "You don't have to brush them all, just the one's you want to keep".
  • Dental limits typical are $1,000 a year. Sounds like most of her's would be cosmetic, so little if any coverage. Sounds like 5-10K worth of work. If she is all that and a bag of chips, and you have no other comperable candidate, then much like the uncomfortable body odor discussions you could be gently honest. You have said she is underpaid. You could give a small bump then pay for dental and have her sign a repayment agreement if she leaves before 24 months, then the following year, give as a raise what you spent on the teeth. Costs you less than hiring a candidate from the outside, and you would be almost guarenteeing a great employee for quite a long time I would guess. Either that or 25 months after giving her a great mouth, she will quit on you. x:P
    I bet if you truely do the cost benefit analysis, paying for better teeth might be the cheapest way.
    Sorry to sound like I am playing both sides of the fence, but since she is already employed, I think working with her might be ...more appropriate. If she was an outside candidate I would whip out the thanks but no thanks letter.
    My $0.02 worth,
    DJ The Balloonman
  • Mrbill, I respect your right to respectfully disagree with me, and I honestly don't know the right answer to this question. But, I don't think that physical beauty can be a BFOQ for an office staffer - maybe for a supermodel, but not for someone who meets with auditors and the public.

    Let's say that she doesn't have bad teeth - instead she has a huge mole on the end of her nose with several large hairs sprouting out of it. It's not too bad, in fact, it nicely complements the dark black moustache she has and the large purple/red birthmark over her eyes. These are all conditions that probably don't rise to the level of disabilities, and can be fixed through cosmetic surgery, just like teeth that are as screwed up as a tomato soup sandwich. Would it be a BFOQ to require her to get the surgery or else not get the job? I really think you are treading in dangerous areas here.

    Anne Williams
    Attorney Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers, LLC
  • >Let's say that she doesn't have bad teeth -
    >instead she has a huge mole on the end of her
    >nose with several large hairs sprouting out of
    >it. It's not too bad, in fact, it nicely
    >complements the dark black moustache she has and
    >the large purple/red birthmark over her eyes.
    When did you meet the lady at the local dry cleaners????? You described her to a T. Her physical appearance has not made me stop taking my cleaning there because she provides the best customer service at any cleaners I have ever used.

  • I genuinely appreciate your comments. In my original post, I did not by any measure stretch the teeth problem. However, the small company she is working for is closing. She has indicated an interest in transferring, and we'd prefer to transfer her so she doesn't lose her job, seniority, etc. Additionally, we do not question her ability to perform the job duties. Unfortunately, the first comment the manager made to me when we discussed the transfer was "but what about her teeth". I talked with my dentist about medical problems that would preclude satisfactory dental work, and he was very thorough in describing those that he is aware of. The Company will pay for the fixing if it's a matter of money. Incidently, this employee has been to the corporate office. She's referred to as "the one with the teeth." By throwing out this problem, I'm hoping to draw on the experience of those of you who have had to deal with sensitive issues. In my 25 years in HR, I've dealt with hygiene problems and a host of other things, but this one is truly unique.
  • I agree with Anne. How did she fare at one of your other companies where you say she is currently working? Does she have to meet the same level of people at her current job? If so, she must do ok or she would't be up for consideration I wouldn't think.

    You said she was "a" top candidate not "the" top candidate. Are there others equally or better qualified in the pipeline to choose from? As a public employer, our selection processes are competitive and we try to emphasize the positives of all candidates rather than the negatives of one candidate and hopefully, this justifies selection of the candidate we feel is best for the position.

    Just a thought.
  • Don't overlook a great candidate because of the condition of his/her teeth. Normally, I would argue that any high-profile position requiring public contact would by definition call for good (or at least presentable) teeth - that is, until I had to hire a senior sales manager three years ago. She was technically head and shoulders above all other candidates, but her teeth were abysmal. We decided to look beyond that and hire her anyway. Sales at her property, in a steady decline when we hired her, have increased significantly each year under her watch, the property is a destination of choice for business travelers in the area, her teeth are now fixed (she just needed good dental insurance) and she is one of the top producing managers we have.

    If the teeth are really that big an issue, invest in a little dental work for an employee who might repay your company in ways you cannot even imagine.
  • If she really is "qualified" and a good employee you should offer her the transfer.

    Once she accepts then you have a side discussion with her about her teeth. One of two things will happen- she will be humiliated and quit, or she will thank you for caring enough for bringing it to her attention. Because you have offered her the transfer, I don't see the risk of her coming back with a charge- you offered the job, she accepted, and then she resigned.

    If you bring it up, be prepared to offer her money to help correct the problem. A little empathy goes a long way. I like Baloonmans suggestion about a repayment agreement. This type of document will allow you to document the reason and hopefully mitigate the pretext discrimination claim that may come.

  • "I talked with my dentist about medical problems that would preclude satisfactory dental work, and he was very thorough in describing those that he is aware of. The Company will pay for the fixing if it's a matter of money."

    With that statement in mind, I think you go with her. Sure she is aware of it, and as with Beagles EE, maybe she is just a good dental policy away from getting it done (those policies usually have a one year waiting period).

    Be honest with her and go for it. Now if Anne's scenario comes about, and the condition cannot be fixed - you have a problem.
  • I cannot believe this discussion. She should be told about her teeth just as we would tell a person that severe body odor is hampering their promotional opportunity, or just as certain as we should tell an applicant that farting in interviews would affect their opportunity for advancement. ADA? Get real!
  • Crash: Your company is very generous in agreeing to pay for the dental work. My hair stylist got hs teeth veneered (and they weren't that bad) and just the top ones cost around $20,000!

    Don't think for one minute that she doesn't know about the teeth if they are that bad...probably just can't afford it.

    If you are truly wanting to transfer her, I would lay this on the table and tell her that she is the top candidate, but the concern is her appearance, i.e., teeth. I would then follow up with the company's willingness to help out with this.

    If she doesn't jump all over this....she is crazy!
  • You've received great advice. Just felt the need to chime in as someone whose dental/medical problems have led to an approximate bill of, I kid you not, probably $45-50,000 in surgeries and cosmetic restorations (not model-gorgeous, just nice) to my jaw and teeth. I have yet another surgery coming up at the end of this month.
    I have frequent face to face contact with applicants, employees, and sometimes our contractors, and my smile made me self conscious. (It still does, not quite finished!) I'm sure this lady is well aware of her appearance. Gently make the offer to support her dental corrections, because it sounds as though she is the right person for the job in every other way. Do this, and you will retain a quality employee and make someone happy at the same time.
    P.S.: A picture of my hubby and me will be coming soon - and I'm gonna be smiling big!
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