Weight Discrimination in the Workplace—Should There Be Legal Protection?

Protected classes under California state and federal law are always evolving. Minorities, women, those with disabilities and members of the gay and lesbian workforce were not always given legal authority in the face of discrimination. A new class has emerged raising a new question—should the obese be established as a protected class? According to a recent publication in the Washington Post, the overweight—specifically women who are overweight—are more likely to earn less and suffer adverse employment action, including lower pay. A new study shows that the reality of weight discrimination in the workplace may demand additional protection, especially for women.

tirednesssetsinAccording to the study, conducted by Vanderbilt University Law School, women are increasingly less likely to work in higher paying jobs and more likely to work lower paying jobs if they are heavier. The study also looked at a correlation between “personal interaction” jobs and “physical activity” jobs, the former including sales or communications positions, and the latter including home health care, food preparation or other physical positions. When comparing the data, women were likely to make less the heavier they became, even though data did not reflect the same trends among male workers. According to the analysts, men did not seem to fare any worse when they gained weight.

Though beauty or physical attractiveness have long been tied to better wages for both men and women, the reason for the disparate impact of weight on a man or woman’s income is unclear. A basic understanding of the data suggests that a woman’s appearance is simply more important on the job than a man’s. Still, the trend suggests that women are unfairly suffering from discrimination if they are overweight. Our Orange County discrimination attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of women and the disabled in the workforce. If you believe you have suffered from workplace discrimination, we can review your case, determine the proper course of action and help you protect your rights.

Though the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination by employers based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, it does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on weight. Some believe weight should be included as a protected class.

According to the Vanderbilt research, statistics clearly show that the more overweight a woman, the fewer opportunities she has for professional upward mobility. Other studies have also found that weight is inversely related to pay. Data shows women were less likely to work high paying jobs and more likely to work low paying jobs when they weighed more.

Even though obesity and/or weight discrimination is not currently a protected class under state or federal law, a case could be made that discrimination, if it’s occurred, is related to gender or disability. If you believe you have been targeted by illegal discrimination, it is important to consult with an experienced advocate who can review the facts of your case and protect your rights.

Employment lawsuits can be filed with assistance from the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange County. Call 714-937-2020.

More Blog Entries:

Age Discrimination in Tech Job Postings, July 6, 2014, Orange County Employment Lawyer Blog

California’s Top Employment Law Mistakes, Oct. 26, 2013, Orange County Employment Lawyer Blog