Employers Group Blog Connection

Weight Discrimination in the Workplace: An Emerging Threat

Posted by Nicole Vierzba on Wed, Aug 24, 2011

Discrimination in the workplace has been one of the leading employment issues a worker faces.

Not only is it an illegal practice but also a condemned act in the community. Employment discrimination in the workplace may take place in various forms. It can be discrimination due to age, sexual preference, religious belief or race.

However, recent studies show that another form of workplace discrimination is currently on the rise - weight discrimination.

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In a study conducted by the International Journal of Obesity, weight discrimination, especially against women, is overwhelmingly increasing in U.S. society. It is almost as widespread as racial discrimination.

From 66 percent  in the past decade, weight discrimination has increased by seven percent to 12 percent. Among obese people, approximately 28 percent of men and 45 percent of women said they have experienced discrimination because of their weight.

Rebecca Puh of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University reveals that the study is based on surveys of more than 2,000 U.S. adults in 1995-96 and 2004-06.

The institutions involve in the research are health care, education or workplace. Respondents say they are fired, denied a job or a promotion because of their weight. Manifestations of discrimination come as insults, abuse and harassment from others.

Sadly, no federal laws against weight discrimination exist. In some cities like Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, discrimination of whatever form has been banned locally.

Although laws in most cities do not include weight discrimination, government also recognized the economic implications that discrimination as a whole does to the society.

Consequently, it has enacted laws to protect the rights of the employees. Federal and state laws are strictly observed and implemented to promote their well being and development.

The following federal laws that prohibits discrimination in the workplace:

•  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) making illegal employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;

•  The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) protecting men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination;

• The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protecting individuals who are 40 years of age or older; 

• Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibiting employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments;

•  Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibiting discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government; and

• Civil Rights Act of 1991 providing, among other things, monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.

In the State of California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employment discrimination based upon race, color, religious creed, ancestry, national origin, and sex.

It also makes illegal discrimination based on age (40 and over), marital status, sexual preference, physical or mental disability (including HIV and AIDS), pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions and mental condition.

This article was originally published in the August 24, 2009  print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper and is courtesy of the Mesriani Law Group.
Article written by:
Rodney Mesriani, Esq. is an experienced litigator and a skilled trial lawyer, the principal partner of Mesriani Law Group which has its main office in Los Angeles and satellite offices in San Fernando Valley, and Irvine. Serving Los Angeles, Orange County, San Fernando Valley, Ventura, San Bernardino, and San Francisco counties in California.

Topics: discrimination, workplace, human resources, office, employee