Gender, Race, Social Justice

Glossier has reached cult status, but does the beauty startup really include everyone?

By now you've probably heard of Glossier, your one-stop Instagrammable shop for makeup and beauty products.

A few weeks ago, Glossier was hit with a class action suit alleging that their website is not accessible for the seeing-impaired.

The plaintiff, Kathleen Sypert, filed the complaints with Glossier after “she was denied goods and service” while navigating the website and encountering “multiple access barriers.” Sypert, who is blind, also filed similar complaints with AllSaints, Beecher’s Cheese, and a few other companies for the same issue. The case has since been settled, but it has ignited a conversation about what it means to be inclusive in an e-commerce driven society.

This lawsuit mirrors the one filed against supermarket chain Winn-Dixie last year.

Under similar allegations, the court found that the website was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which  “prohibits individuals with disabilities from being discriminated against when it comes to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities or public accommodations,” according to an NBC News report.

The grocery store was ordered to make the website accessible, in what’s considered the first trial regarding website accessibility under the ADA.

Enacted in 1990, the ADA had ensured that street-side retailers and merchandisers kept physical clearance in aisles and general accessibility throughout their stores. However, the ADA has expanded to include a company’s website thanks to e-commerce companies like Amazon driving consumers to the Internet and the recent Winn-Dixie ruling.

In doing so, the number of lawsuits filed citing a violation to the ADA Title III has increased, specifically in New York where Glossier is based.

It’s strange to see companies like Glossier, a beauty brand that aims to be inclusive in their products and assert a “symbiotic relationship” with their customers, even slapped with this lawsuit when at face value they appear to be doing so. It’s important, though, to differentiate a company’s words from their actions. You can say that you offer goods to a wide consumer base, but when you fail to make those products attainable to these individuals – whether they are defined along by race, gender, or physical abilities – then you failed to achieve the goal you set out to do.

It would be like Fenty Beauty being exclusively sold in Sephoras located in majority-white neighborhoods.

There’s no follow through.

And while it’s easy to dismiss the lawsuits as an attempt to exploit shortcomings in design since in the past year businesses are paying out an average of $16,000 per settlement, rarely is this done for the benefit of the plaintiffs. 

According to a report by the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, plaintiffs in New York only receive about $500 per case compared to what their attorney cashes in on recovery fees. So to dismiss Sypert is to ignore a history of exclusion, intentional and accidental, that has made the existence of the ADA critical in defending those with disabilities.

So no, you don’t get to be rewarded for doing the bare minimum. Inclusivity doesn’t stop once you offer an array of foundation shades or show that you’re body positive.

It’s 2018.

To do so is to follow the wave. It’s ensuring that your consumers are offered an equal and devoid of prejudice experience in-store and online. Failing to do so shows who you are and who you actually represent.