Scorpios Need Not Apply: Zodiac Signs Inspire Job Bias

Everyone knows (or should know) that it's illegal for businesses to discriminate against people because of their gender, race, religion and other things, at least in the United States. But what about rejecting an applicant based on their astrological sign?

According to a job listingin the Chutian Metropolis Daily newspaper in Wuhan, China, a language training company there is seeking qualified applicants — as along as they're not Scorpios or Virgos. The Toronto Sun reported that Xia, a spokeswoman for the company, said that in her experience Scorpios and Virgos are often "feisty and critical." Xia said, "I hired people with those two star signs before, and they either liked quarrelling with colleagues or they could not do the job for long."

She preferred potential applicants who were born under certain constellations, such as Capricorns, Libras and Pisces. To some it may seem like a bad joke, but it's not funny to qualified applicants desperate for a job who get turned away because of the company's credence in astrology.

It's not the first time an employer has come under fire for zodiac sign discrimination. In 2009 an Austrian insurance company advertised, "'We are looking for people over 20 for part-time jobs in sales and management with the following star signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Aquarius, Aries and Leo."

That advertisement prompted an investigation by authorities. Remarkably, they concluded that the company's stated preference for certain astrological signs was not illegal: not because there was any validity to astrology or because the practice was not discriminatory, but because at the time, Austrian laws regulating equal opportunity in hiring only applied to discrimination by gender, age and race. In other words, it was legal because the law was not specifically written to include applicants being denied jobs because of their astrological sign.

There are very strong similarities between astrology and racism. The idea behind astrology is that people born at certain times and places share specific, distinguishing personality characteristics (in the Chinese case, that Scorpios and Virgos are hard to get along with and that Libras and Pisces are not). The idea behind racism is that people who were born with a certain skin color or with certain racial features share specific, distinguishing personality characteristics (for example that African-Americans are lazy, or that Chinese are bad drivers).

Astrology and racism are rooted in the same basic worldview: That people can be categorized and judged based not on their individual merits, talents or abilities but instead by their skin color or when they were born. One other similarity between the two: Neither should disqualify a person from getting a job.

This story was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow Life's Little Mysteries on Twitter @llmysteries, then join us on Facebook.

Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries. His website is www.BenjaminRadford.com.