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Your job and your weight

Recently, you may have seen reports confirming that working women still earn less than men on the average. However, a recent law school study revealed that your weight could also be the reason your paycheck is smaller. In fact, if you are even slightly overweight, you may be making less than an average-sized woman.

Earning less money may be only one way in which you are treated differently on the job solely because of your appearance. Despite the fact that so many people in California and across the country struggle with obesity, more people - especially women - are reporting discrimination in the workplace because they are overweight.

What does size discrimination look like?

Research confirms that one of the characteristics that elicits employment discrimination most commonly is a person's weight. For women, size discrimination is as common as racial discrimination. Some signs that an employer is discriminating against you because of your weight include:

  • You are not hired for a job for which you are well qualified.
  • You are paid less than someone of average size.
  • You feel hostility from your boss or coworkers, either openly or subtly.
  • You are not promoted despite your experience and competence.
  • You are fired regardless of your work performance.

Hospitality and entertainment industries seem to be notorious for discrimination based on weight. One casino owner in another state mandated regular weigh-ins of his cocktail waitresses and suspended or fired them if they gained.

Stereotypes of heavy people

It may seem that no matter how hard you work to prove yourself, you always have a stigma to overcome. Some women reported having multiple degrees of higher education but still losing jobs to smaller, less qualified women. Others with years of success on the job worked for promotions that were repeatedly given to others.

Those who may be likely to discriminate could have false perceptions of larger people. For example, they may prejudge that you are not intelligent enough to know how to get healthy, or that you are simply lazy. To them, it may be a logical justification that an unintelligent, lazy person is not right for the job.

Your weight and the law

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lists about a dozen characteristics that the law protects from discrimination, including race, religion, age and sexual orientation. Even pregnancy-related conditions, such as breastfeeding, have protection from unfair treatment on the job.

However, the list does not include body size. Unfortunately, unless you are morbidly obese - which is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act - there is no specific citation for simply being overweight.

The reason why the government protects people who have certain characteristics is to compel employers to consider people based on their capacity to do a job well and not because of any historically stigmatized factor. For this reason, if you feel your employer is discriminating against you because of your size, a consultation with a lawyer may benefit you. An attorney who is committed to fighting for the rights of people who face discrimination will assess your situation and work to protect you from unfair treatment on the job.

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