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Weight Discrimination in the Workplace

When you think of discrimination, images of employees being harassed because of their age, gender, or sexual orientation may come to mind. However, not much is discussed about another common type of discrimination: weight discrimination.

The reality is that many employers are choosing workers based on their appearance. In fact, 5% of men and 10% of women have been rejected for a job based on their weight. In addition, studies show that overweight women are paid less than male colleagues.

While there are laws prohibiting harassment and discrimination due to one’s gender, age, religion, race, disability or sexual orientation, there are no weight discrimination laws in place except for in Michigan. Michigan is the only state that bans discrimination based on one’s weight or height. There are a handful of cities in the nation—including Binghampton, New York—that prevent weight discrimination.

Weight Discrimination is Hurtful

Weight discrimination is harmful, especially since it happens more often to women. Discrimination tends to lead to negative emotions such as anxiety and depression. It also causes more stress, which can lead to health issues over time.

Weight discrimination leads employers to treat overweight, and often female, employees as less valuable. Why would a few extra pounds suddenly make a woman less likely to get a raise or a promotion? A woman’s appearance has nothing to do with her productivity or work ethic. There is no valid reason why she should be paid less.

It also affects women more because it makes them feel like they are supposed to be “eye candy.” Instead of praising a woman for her skill sets, she is mocked for her appearance. This outdated attitude does not belong in a modern workplace.

Excess Weight as Disability Discrimination?

Shaming an employee for being overweight could be viewed as a form of disability discrimination. Not everyone who is obese is that way because they simply eat too much. Medical conditions can cause a person to gain weight. Eating disorders can cause a person to become overweight, as can hormonal issues and thyroid disorders. Certain medications can also cause a person to gain weight.

Instead of shaming these people, employers may need to make a reasonable accommodation under the law. So before an employer harasses or discriminates against an employee for their appearance, they should have all the facts first. Otherwise, they can face serious consequences under the law.

Contact a New York Employee Discrimination Lawyer

Unfortunately, discrimination against overweight individuals is prevalent in the workplace and affects both women and men. While there are no specific laws in New York making this body shaming illegal, you may be able to seek legal action against your employer, particularly if you were harassed about your weight or you lost out on raises and promotions strictly because of your weight.

If you have faced discrimination in the workplace, the experienced New York employment discrimination lawyers at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can help. We can file a claim against your employer and make your office a safe place to work. To schedule a free consultation, call (347) 464-8694.

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