It's illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race and other protected classes. So by extension, it's best practice to avoid asking applicants for their race or asking them for a photo, lest you give the appearance that it's a factor in the hiring decision.
But I've never heard of rejecting someone outright for sending an unsolicited photo. That's just crazy. Would you also reject an applicant who had "President of African-American Student Union" on their resume because it belies their race?
Well, likely he wouldn't, but we can be sure that he would reject someone outright for having "President of the European-American Student Union", can't we? Charitably, this is because there is essentially no chance anyone would ever file a lawsuit for rejection of the second candidate. I'm sure you can draw the uncharitable version yourself. :)
It's both wrong and illegal to reject a candidate based on their race, regardless of what race that is. And I am pretty sure the OP was not implying otherwise. Further, I assure you that white people file discrimination lawsuits too.
// Out of interest have you a reference to a white person winning a race discrimination case, preferably with regard to being hired?
Also why should "an applicant who had 'President of African-American Student Union' on their resume because it belies their race?"? Surely a person of any race can be president of the African-American SU, or are they allowed to be racists?
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1077466/London-Under... is a case of failing to protect a white worker from bullying whilst at the same time being extremely protective of black workers.
I understand the 'spirit', but not everyone interprets that 'spirit' the same way, and some companies still have the guts to not ignore people simply because of what's on their resume - photos included.
If I see someone lists attendance at an historically black college, or has a traditionally feminine name, I can already deduce their race or gender without a photo, and I can do whatever discriminating I want to do using that information.
Company policies that throw out applicants because they've attached included any sort of photo at least as damaging (because of the loss to the company of potential talent) than lawsuits over Title VII violations, but it's much harder to quantify that.
It's going to get harder and harder to even guard against this stuff as email clients merge social media information in while reviewing applicants. Oh, unless you just buy and use crappy web-based application software that requires 14 screens that only works in IE6 - then you'll be 100% safe from any chance of getting interested and qualified applicants (and lawsuits too).
Edit: This would lead me to believe the law is somewhat up for interpretation and it's not cut and dried, since AA is a pretty big company and I would assume their legal dept had to sign off on this kind of thing. That being said, they are pretty well known for being sketchy and creepy.
What benefit does a company gain by knowing what an applicant looks like prior to determining if the resume makes the skills cutoff?
It's a racist, ageist, sexist hiring culture. If you didn't go to the right schools, don't have a "piston" or your mailing address is from a ghetto, you're fucked.
Here's some examples
When I have brought this up with my friends they fall back to the "customary" excuse. If the only reason a company won't look at my CV is because they don't know what I look like than it's not a place I would ever consider working for.
IOW, you can include a photograph on your resume, but the likely result of sending that resume to a large corporation is that it will be deleted immediately.