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The Unspoken Discrimination in the Workplace (Part 3)

What impact does weight-based discrimination have in the workplace? Imagine interviewing for the job of your dreams and the recruiter gives you a look of disgust and state we are going to decline your candidacy. You don’t understand why because the interview went so well. You follow up to get a better understanding and they make the comment, “you just don’t have the look we are accustomed to in our organization”. As you do research of the

organization, you notice all the employee profiles are of someone with a thin stature. I have another scenario for you. You have excelled and performed exceedingly above your work expectations. You are the point of contact and subject-matter expert for your department, yet you are overlooked for a promotion. How could this be? Well, you catch wind that your boss has a bias against individuals that are obese. You noticed they are short with you and not as interactive with you as they are with your colleagues, but never thought it had anything to do with your weight.

Discrimination against individuals that are obese have a negative impact on employment activities. It could negatively impact hiring decisions, promotions, and the ability to work on special projects. Eastern Kentucky University was able to gather data in which displayed that 93% of employers would choose an applicant of “normal weight” over an equally qualified applicant who was obese (2020). Others study pointed out how discrimination can be sublet yet have a negative impact against workers. The study founded that human resource professionals and managers were more than likely to disqualify obese people from getting promoted and moving up into supervisor positions ( Yu, 2022). These reports prove the bias against obese people and how it affects their employment experience.

There are various measures companies can take to prevent bias against obese people in their workplace. Examples include:

1. Review and update job descriptions that are not inclusive

2. Be aware of accommodations for those that are obese, if needed

3. Make no assumptions about obese staff

4. Lead by example and create a culture of inclusion and belonging

5. Implement bias awareness training

6. Reward based on performance and create measurable tools to do so

These methods are just a few that can help in eliminating workplace discrimination. Although law may be slow, it does not stop an organization from ensuring policies, procedures, and practices are treating obesity in the same manner it would for other protected classes. The best thing an organization can do is be proactive instead of reactive to ensure you are assessing the risk that could come with discrimination against employees for any reason. Obese individuals are smart, productive, capable, and human.

Does your organization provide a culture of belonging?

Eastern Kentucky University (2020). Overweight and Underpaid: Weight Discrimination at Work. EKU Online. Retrieved on November 20, 2022 from,

Yu, A. (2022). The Unspoken Weight-Discrimination Problem at Work. BBC. Retrieved on November 20, 2022 from,

The Unspoken Discrimination in the Workplace (Part 3) © 2022 by Tameka Lockhart-Spann is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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