A Facebook friend of mine shared the following with me and asked me whether or not I thought it would make an interesting discussion on the blog. I definitely thought it was worth opening up the discussion. Here is part of the comment:
… It makes one wonder to what degree employers judge potential new employees on body image. I have an overweight friend who dreads job interviews. He is an engineer, his resume is stellar; but when he arrives at the interview, he can tell by the way they look at him that he probably won’t get the job. Not hiring someone based on weight is shallow at best and discriminatory at worst. But a lot of employers don’t want to take the risk of hiring someone who may have major health problems down the road or may not have the energy to, as is printed on most applications…..”fulfill the duties required without special conditions.”
I know firsthand that people do have a hard time separating abilities from appearance. I saw it in my own life and have seen it happen to overweight friends of mine. I have even seen it from the business side with business owner acquaintances who have shared that “I try not to hire overweight people because they are lazy and often absent from work.” (These acquaintances usually do not know my weight loss story.)
There was a small study published in the International Journal of Obesity that asked potential employers to evaluate the likelihood that they would hire women based on their resumes and pictures. The catch was that the pictures showed six different women before and after they had weight loss surgery. In every case the study showed that the obese candidates “received more negative responses on leadership potential, predicted success, likelihood to select, salary, total employment rating and rank order of preference relative to other candidates.”
I am not surprised. The discrimination of the obese is hard to quantify and likely hard to prove. And, in the eyes of the law, obesity is not a protected class. While it is unacceptable to discriminate against people for race, religion, etc., it is often still acceptable to make fun of, and yes, discriminate against people who are obese.
I think part of the reason that employers and other people tend to discriminate against obese people comes from the common stereotypes associated with people who struggle with their weight. I wasn’t lazy, but I suspect people thought I was. I was still as intelligent as I was before I gained 150 pounds, but I wonder if people still saw me as intelligent once I weighed more than a football player. I didn’t have medical problems associated with my obesity, but I can see an employer assuming that I would cost them more in terms of medical payments and fees.
I don’t think that discrimination is right in any form. It hurt my feelings when I saw people treating me differently than they did before I gained weight, and I suspect I would have had a harder time finding a job as an obese, 300+ pound person than I would have as a regular-sized 150 pound woman.
Have you seen discrimination against an obese person or been a victim? Diane
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles FreeDigitalPhotos.net