Discrimination against the obese – we discussed this issue in our blog of 3/27, and noted that it is illegal only in Michigan, and about six cities in the US.
The EEOC has taken the position, as we noted in our blog of February 11, 2011, that weight discrimination may, however, violate the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"), if, for example, the employee’s weight substantially impairs a major life activity. Moreover, it may be coupled with a condition caused or exacerbated by obesity, such as hypertension or diabetes, which have been held to be disabling.
Anecdotally, we cited a news report which demonstrates discrimination against the obese — Citizen’s Medical Center in Victoria, Texas has instituted a policy that requires potential employees to have a body mass index (or “BMI”) of less than 35.
In response to the last bog, we received a comment from a distressed reader who asked if anything could be done – she was overweight and lost many jobs after the initial telephone interviews went well, simply because she was overweight. She also noted that many interviewers assumed that she had no abilities to plan and make goals simply because she is overweight. See our blog of 4/9.
The anecdotal evidence of such discrimination has now been confirmed by a study published by scientists at The University of Manchester and Monash University, Melbourne in the International Journal of Obesity. One researcher, Dr. Kerry O’Brien, described the study and the results:
"We used pictures of women pre- and post-bariatric surgery, and varied whether participants saw either a resume, amongst many, that had a picture of an obese female (BMI 38-41) attached, or the same female but in a normal weight range (BMI 22-24) following bariatric surgery. We found that strong obesity discrimination was displayed across all job selection criteria, such as starting salary, leadership potential, and likelihood of selecting an obese candidate for the job."
The University of Manchester website offers that a "copy of the paper, ‘Obesity discrimination: the role of physical appearance, personal ideology, and anti-fat prejudice,’ published in the International Journal of Obesity, is available on request."
As we asked in our prior blog: how many employers have let the next mega-star employee slip through their fingers simply because of weight?