Weight Discrimination: Is It Real?

Mar 23 2018

Discrimination is an all-too-sad reality for many employees around the country, including here in Connecticut. Many people know that discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, religion, or gender — among other categories — is illegal. Other forms of discrimination are more subtle and less understood. One such form of discrimination is weight discrimination – that is discrimination against people because of how much they weigh.

Disparate treatment of employees because of their weight is well-documented. According to one study, overweight women earn an average of 4.5% less than their slimmer peers; for men, the difference (2.3%) is less dramatic.

An employee’s weight, size, or status as obese is not obviously a protected characteristic under federal or Connecticut law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), for example, states that weight and height (within normal parameters) are not disabilities.

Does that mean it’s legal to call someone “fat” at work? Not necessarily. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) indicates that obesity or excessive body fat can qualify as a disability in some instances. Specifically, obesity can qualify as a disability:

  • If an employee has an underlying physical impairment (such as diabetes) that has resulted in obesity;
  • If an employee’s weight is more than twice the “normal” weight and causes impairment in everyday work activities; or
  • If management believes the employee is disabled because of its perception of the employee’s weight.

Connecticut state law, meanwhile, has a broader definition of disability than federal law. Under Connecticut law, a physical disability is defined as “any chronic physical handicap, infirmity or impairment.” This might well include obesity.

If you have been subjected to termination, demotion, or harassment because of your weight; or if a manager or coworker has repeatedly mocked you as “fat” or insulted you in other ways based on your weight, you might be protected under laws against disability discrimination. No one should face unequal treatment because of their weight. Contact the Connecticut employment discrimination attorneys at Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C., today. We are here to fight for you.

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