With all the forms of discrimination around today, one that we rarely think of, or even realize exists, is discrimination against obese people. Unfortunately, just because we rarely think about it doesn’t mean that it isn’t alive and well.
It’s actually more than a little odd, more and more of the population is obese, yet discrimination is on the rise. You would think since obesity is actually kind of the ‘norm’ today that no one would be discriminated against, but that’s not the case.
Unlike with other types of discrimination such as race, age, gender and sexuality, virtually no one seems to care if obese people suffer from discrimination. There are few safeguards in place, other than just the generic ones that cover everyone.
Discrimination can be overt or a little more subtle. Often people will make ‘fat’ jokes and no one would complain (try doing that in many work places today but instead of a fat joke make a ‘black’ joke, a ‘gay’ joke or something of the like and just see what would happen. You’d be called in to the H.R. department so fast it would make your head spin).
Other times the discrimination is more subtle and harder to prove such as being passed over for a promotion or making less money than other people at the same firm doing the same job.
Since it’s against most companies policies to openly discuss how much you earn, it’s hard for the obese person to prove that they are earning less than their counterparts. The only people who know that are the managers who are allowing the practice to go on in the first place.
The problem is a society wide bias against fat people, interestingly many people who are overweight themselves tend to think of overweight people as lazy and stupid.
This widespread bias carries over into the workplace and is part of the reason overweight people make less, the managers may ‘honestly’ think that the ‘fat guy’ on the team isn’t really pulling his weight because he’s lazy. Not to defend the manager, but he may not ever realize he’s doing it and that is the problem.
Since discrimination against obese people isn’t even recognized by the equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws except in California and Michigan, your best bet to avoid this type of bias is to look for companies that have a very well known diversity policy. Typically any company that welcomes all genders, races, religions, ages and sexual orientations, won’t tolerate bias against anyone, even though it may not be spelled out by the law.
It always takes the laws, and the mindset of people, time to catch up with the realities of society. Eventually discrimination against people because of their weight will be part of the EEO as well, but until then try to find a company that is very diverse.
If you are employed by a company right now and you are the victim of discrimination try to document as much as possible and talk to your manager or the H.R. department. Sometimes people do it without even realizing it, if that’s the case just mentioning it might help realign the way people think and you won’t have to put up with discrimination against obese people.