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Study: Employer discrimination rampant against obese women

Most California communities don’t have specific laws to protect citizens from bullies who target overweight people, but San Francisco does. San Francisco enacted a so-called fat ordinance in 2000 barring discrimination against a person’s size, according to a New York Times report. Obesity is not a protected class in the workplace, under most employment laws.

A Vanderbilt University study found many overweight workers are relegated to jobs with lower pay and more physical demands than workers of average size. However, some obese employees are not subject to these unfavorable conditions. Researchers said employers don’t place obese women in jobs that require dealing with the public, but do not hesitate to give those jobs to overweight men.

Researchers used body mass index to gauge which employees were obese or, in some cases, morbidly obese. Women who fell into these categories were some of the lowest paid workers, hidden from public view, unlike obese male counterparts. Overweight American women also held more unappealing, physically-demanding jobs than obese men.

The Vanderbilt research compared information from the U.S. government’s Current Population Survey with a second nationwide survey about food intake and jobs. Women with “average weights” were paid nearly five percent more than morbidly obese women, when both performed jobs dealing with the public. The study concluded employers sexually discriminated against overweight females.

A representative of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was not shocked by the results of the research. NAAFA claims studies have shown repeatedly fat discrimination is common among employers, landlords, colleges and others. The Vanderbilt research takes the claims one step further by connecting obesity at work to discrimination against women.

Gender may not be used, overtly or subtly, as an excuse by employers to discriminate against workers. Workplace gender discrimination violates California and federal laws. Workers have a right to file claims against companies that mistreat them based on gender.

Source: NBC News, “Overweight Women Tend To Earn Smaller Paychecks, Study Claims” Bill Briggs, Oct. 21, 2014

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