Is Weight Discrimination Illegal?

As obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S., the amount of people who suffer from weight discrimination in the workplace also rises.

Weight discrimination in the workplace is a real issue. More and more overweight people are turned away from jobs due to their weight or they are laughed at, criticized, or turned down for promotions in the workplace due to their weight.

Although weight discrimination in the workplace is awful, it's not technically illegal. A very limited number of cities prohibit weight discrimination in the workplace. It's feared that many states are slow to come around on the issue because they worry about imposing stricter workplace laws that would make companies not want to do business in their states. If businesses leave their state, they would lose out in revenue and taxes.

What are common reasons company employers behave this way and discriminate against overweight individuals?

  • They have a company image they'd like to enforce. Example: the fitness industry.
  • It maybe a safety issue. Example: the airline industry.

While some individuals claim that obesity falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), courts often lean toward obesity being more of a lifestyle choice rather than a disability, except in the case where morbid obesity is caused by a physiological disorder.

Otherwise, under the ADA, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to obese employees in the workplace.

What gender is discriminated against more?

According to a Yale study from 2008, women face more weight discrimination, are more likely to report weight discrimination in the workplace, and are discriminated against at a lower body mass index (BMI) than men.  The study also reports that weight discrimination is as common as racial discrimination and more common than discrimination against sexual orientation, disability, religious beliefs, or nationality.

What can men and women do if they faced weight discrimination. They have a few options such as complaining to human resources, filing a complaint with the EEOC, or consulting with an attorney.


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