Overweight women face employment, salary discrimination

Many forms of discrimination persist in the workplace, but a new study highlights a prejudice that most people wouldn’t even think about: obesity bias.

New research has found that overweight women face issues in getting a job. Scientists at The University of Manchester and Monash University, it was found that obese women are much more likely to experience discrimination when trying to get a job and are paid less money than their slimmer colleagues.

The study involved showing a group of people, acting as hiring employers, various resumes and headshots of people seeking jobs. The ’employers’ were then asked to rate the candidates based on their employability, starting salary and probability for advancement.

The lead author Dr. Kerry O’Brien said “We found that strong obesity discrimination was displayed across all job selection criteria, such as starting salary, leadership potential, and likelihood of selecting an obese candidate for the job.”

Weight discrimination in the workplace is often largely ignored, but it’s a serious issue and one that’s been in the news recently after a Texas hospital said it would require new employees to have a body mass index of less than 35. (That’s about 245 lb. for a man of 5 ft. 10 in., and 195 lb. for a 5-ft. 2-in. woman.)

While most forms of discrimination in the workplace are banned, weight bias largely isn’t. Surprisingly, Michigan is the only state where weight discrimination is specifically outlawed at work. This may be one area of employment discrimination which may soon need to be re-evaluated to determine whether it would be most beneficial to make appropriate changes for those employees facing weight discrimination in the hiring and employment context.