3 Risks of Obesity Discrimination for Employers

Obesity discrimination poses growing risks for employers that target obesity in their employment practices. The Risk and Compliance Journal of the Wall Street Journal identified three factors contributing to the increasing risk:

  1. Recognition as a disease by the American Medical Association has markedly increased the risks for employers to be sued for workplace discrimination. Previously the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had provided guidance that only severe obesity would generally be considered a disability. The commission has since withdrawn that guidance, signalling greater vulnerability for employers.
  2. Wellness programs that target obesity can put employers in the position of probing employees about obesity and thus prompt litigation in situations where obesity is considered a disability.
  3. Disproportionate racial and ethnic impact of obesity means that employment practices with an adverse effect on people with obesity will have a disproportionate effect upon Hispanic and black employees for whom susceptibility to obesity is much higher.

Obesity Action Coalition Chairman Ted Kyle told the Wall Street Journal:

Employers are prodding employees to go into a wellness program, and setting goals for their weight and telling them they need to improve it. But they are not covering the treatment necessary to improve weight status.

As research continues to clarify the physiological basis for obesity, both public and legal opinions are becoming less tolerant of obesity discrimination by employers. In a recent analysis of legal and public support for protection against such discrimination, Jennifer Pomeranz and Rebecca Puhl found a favorable environment for stronger safeguards.

Smart employers are adapting.

Click here to read more in the Wall Street Journal and here for the analysis by Pomeranz and Puhl.

Osprey Warning, photograph © Chris Devers / flickr

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One Response to “3 Risks of Obesity Discrimination for Employers”

  1. March 24, 2014 at 2:42 pm, Ken said:

    TED, a Press, TV, etc. advocate for the challenged,
    Part of what we discussed – good.