Is Discrimation Acceptable? Fat People Need Not Apply

In certain instances, job discrimination is considered acceptable.

For example, a Catholic Priest would have a tough road to hoe to get hired as a Rabbi, no matter how extensive his career background. There’s really no reason NOT to hire him, but it’s just not going to happen, is it? We accept that.

So when is discrimination out of line?

obesity discriminationUnder federal law, employers generally cannot discriminate on the basis of several factors, including (but not limited to) race, sex, religion, disability, or age (for workers over 40). Yet only Michigan and six U.S. cities ban discrimination against hiring overweight people.

I understand — to a point. After all, a severely obese person might also be very unhealthy. She might not be able to perform her duties, especially involving physical activity. However, is it tolerable to discriminate against her because she doesn’t “look the part?”

Citizens Medical Center in Texas now requires potential employees to have a body mass index of less than 35 (about 210 pounds for someone who is 5’ 5”). Their controversial policy states an employee’s physique

“Should fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional,” including an appearance “free from distraction” for hospital patients.

Lifestyle discrimination has precedent.

For example, certain companies will not hire employees who smoke. That, however, is because of the side effects of their behavior, such as higher health care costs or insurance premiums. It is NOT because they do not approve of the smoker’s appearance.

What’s different here is that the policy doesn’t indicate costs or side effects; nor does it suggest that obese employees are incapable of performing their tasks. Mostly, it refers to physical form, placing overweight applicants in the same category as those with visible tattoos or facial piercings (which is a whole other discussion).

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance claims, “discrimination plain and simple.”

I agree.

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Audio: Fat People Need Not Apply

This is the podcast from April 11, 2012

It’s 7:49 in length and talks about a medical center in Texas that will not hire anyone with a BMI over 35 and whether or not that is discrimination. I think it is. I put out my reasons in this podcast. Your comments are welcome.

You can download it by clicking here.

You can read the column here.