I have worked in the health and wellness industry my entire career. But it was not until I lost weight following gastric bypass surgery that anyone would hire me. Before losing weight, I only could get hired for temporary work assignments. That went on for nearly 10 solid years.
Coincidence? Surely not.
Understanding Obesity Discrimination
Obesity discrimination can be defined as unfair treatment of an overweight person or group of people based on prejudice, making determinations based on a person’s weight rather than their abilities and merit, or less favorable treatment of a person because she is obese.
Obesity discrimination also increases as does a person’s weight. Discrimination has been reported by 10% of overweight women, 20% of obese women, and 45% of very obese women respectively.
Fat Discrimination is an Accepted Prejudice
There is no question that obese people are discriminated against in the workplace and, to exacerbate matters that much more, discrimination against the obese seems to be one of the last types of accepted prejudice.
Studies have shown that people who are overweight face discrimination regarding appraisals for job performance and other job related decisions. They are also assessed as emotionally impaired and are charged with having negative personality characteristics.
Workplace Discrimination Against Obesity
Workplace discrimination based on weight was discovered to be more common than discrimination based on personal characteristics, and negative attitudes against obese people were also found to be more prevalent than negative attitudes against ex-felons or ex-mental patients.
Obese people have greater difficulty finding jobs, get fewer promotions, receive worse treatment, are more likely to be terminated, and receive lower wages than their normal-weight counterparts. These infractions are particularly common toward obese white women who receive an average wage that is 24.1% lower than their peers.
Overweight respondents to a national survey where found to be 12 times more likely to report incidents of discrimination in the workplace than were normal-weight workers. Obese respondents were 37 times more likely to report incidents of workplace discrimination and severely obese people were 100 times more likely to claim instances of obesity related workplace discrimination.
Finally, obese women have a 5.8% greater chance of losing their jobs while obese men have a 4.8% higher chance than do their non-obese co-workers.
Laws Against Obesity Discrimination
There are currently no federal laws defining obesity as a "protected characteristic" like race, sex, and religion – and Michigan is the only state to have laws protecting against obesity discrimination. Despite such oversights, the Americans With Disabilities Act does provide recourse for those obese people who need some help.
Because of a lawsuit filed against BAE Systems by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, obese people have an avenue of protection. A long-term employee of the company who weighed in excess of 600 pounds was terminated because of his weight. The contention was that he could no longer satisfactorily perform his duties because of his obesity. The company made no reasonable attempts to seek an alternative solution.
Following a revision, the Americans With Disabilities Act now considers a person disabled if that person has a disability, a record of a disability, or is regarded as disabled to an extent that the disability limits major activities.
Reasonable employers can now adapt their approach to better address the needs of obese employees. However, the issue of size acceptance in the workplace remains largely unaddressed.
Bariatric Surgery Source - http://www.bariatric-surgery-source.com/obesity-discrimination.html - accessed 8/13/12
HR.com - http://www.hr.com/SITEFORUM?&t=/Default/gateway&i=1116423256281&application=story&active=no&ParentID=1119278127660&StoryID=1119654547265&xref=http%3A//www.google.com/url%3Fsa%3Dt%26rct%3Dj%26q%3Dmorbid%2520obesity%2520and%2520discrimination%2520the%2520workplace%26source%3Dweb%26cd%3D2%26sqi%3D2%26ved%3D0CFIQFjAB%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.hr.com%252Fhr%252Fcommunities%252Flegal%252Fobesity_and_morbid_obesity_in_the_workplace___ada_trends_and_best_practices_eng.html%26ei%3DDAQoUNmfD-mJ6AHN1IHwAw%26usg%3DAFQjCNEJb1ekh-0XYHbzz6qS54TtfC9O-Q - accessed 8/13/12
Hunton Employment and Labor Perspectives - http://www.huntonlaborblog.com/2011/11/articles/ada-title-iii-and-state-disabl/a-big-problem-obesity-discrimination-in-the-workplace/ - accessed 8/13/12
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You can read about my decision to have weight loss surgery back in 2003, and since that time my journey from processed food junkie to healthy living so as to maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management. My wish is to help you on your own journey of lifetime obesity disease management. Whether you are planning or have had bariatric surgery, or you want to lose weight through non-surgical means, my shareposts along the way will help you to navigate your journey successfully.
I grew from fit to fat and became a processed food junkie and couch potato with diabetes, celiac disease, depression, acid reflux, asthma, and hypertension. I was in my 30s, morbidly obese and on ~10 prescription medications. Since 2003 I’ve maintained massive weight loss from gastric bypass surgery and remain free from 9 of the 10 prescriptions. Then in 2013 I underwent body contouring and facial plastic surgeries to remove the last traces of my former obesity. Nowadays I am committed to supporting the online patient community with outstanding resources and by sharing my long-term success in defeating obesity and obesity-related illnesses. Today, I’m a size small (down from a size 24W) and living larger than ever!