With a growing proportion of the United States population that is classified as obese, weight discrimination is becoming a serious issue in many workplaces. While most employers are aware that it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of categories like race or religion, many are not aware that weight discrimination is also a legitimate and harmful type of discrimination.
One woman told reporters recently that in the early 1990s, she was called into her boss’s office and told to lose weight. The woman’s boss apparently told her that she was unfit for her job as a counselor because of her weight, which he thought indicated that her life was not “under control.” Even after struggling to lose 100 pounds, she was still forced to quit about a year later.
This incident illustrates the pervasive attitude towards overweight people, who are often unjustly perceived as lazy, unmotivated, or less competent than workers at a lower weight. While there is no evidence to suggest that these presumptions are true, they are common misconceptions that result in lower pay and often blatant discrimination towards larger people.
Congress has amended the Americans with Disabilities Act to prohibit discrimination against people who are defined as morbidly obese, which means that they are 100 percent or more above a healthy weight range for their height. Earlier this year, the EEOC successful obtained the first two settlements under this new law.
Our Minnesota employment law firm handles a variety of discrimination related cases. More information can be found on our website.
Source: Huffington Post, “Obesity Discrimination On The Job Provokes Dispute Over Best Remedy,” Christina Wilkie, Oct. 4, 2012.