While not fair, people do judge others on their appearance. If you’re fit and attractive that will usually work in your favor, but if you’re overweight that can not only work against you but it can lead to outright discrimination against obese people.
Many times people will think that an overweight person is a slob, or lazy, or lacking in self-control. Unfortunately, many other people may have one or more of these traits but with an overweight person, the ‘proof’ is visible. Most types of discrimination are very subtle. They can be anything from a small smile to a fat joke, to turning away laughing when they spot someone who is obese. All of these things hurt and an obese person will get to the point where they see a slight everywhere, sometimes when there really isn’t one.
One of the worst places for fat discrimination is in the workplace. Many times someone will be on the fast track for a job they applied for online and once they get to the company for a face to face interview, they will be told that they won’t be hired. What seemed like a sure thing online is suddenly not going to happen and really nothing changed. Their resume is the same as it was online, their experience and education are still the same. The only thing that happened is that their potential employer didn’t like the way they looked.
While not legal, fat discrimination happens daily, and if you can prove it’s happening you have legal remedies, but how can you prove it? More often than not, you can’t. You just won’t get that promotion or raise you’ve been hoping for and you may ‘know’ that it’s because you’re overweight, but you can’t prove it.
And, on the other side of the coin, many companies who have to pay health insurance premiums don’t think that they can afford it, or that it’s fair, to have to pay more for people who are overweight (this often extends to smokers too) since they will have more health issues than someone who is in good health and doesn’t smoke.
People who are overweight are far more likely to have health issues, many of them severe. They are more likely to miss work more often and need more medical care. So, while not condoning any type of discrimination, it is important to understand that this isn’t a simple issue. There are many elements that have to be considered.
The likelihood of fat discrimination will increase dramatically in some professions. Anything related to cosmetics or personal appearance will be the hardest for a fat person to get their foot in the door or to advance once they’ve gotten in. For example, a high-end car salesman, a cosmetics store clerk, a boutique employee, a health club employee, etc. These are types of places that rely on the appearance of their employees to help make sales. An unattractive or fat employee might not help sales and they may actually hurt sales.
Discrimination against obese people happens, and it’s wrong. Though this isn’t a black and white issue. When an employer refuses to hire someone just because they’re overweight but it won’t have an impact on their ability to do their job, it’s wrong. If, on the other hand, an employer has to maintain a certain image just to have their business to be successful, it may not be right, but it’s not unreasonable either.