Is it okay to discriminate against obese people?

Victoria Hospital in Texas has stated they will no longer hire anyone with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or higher. To put that in perspective, that’s 210 pounds for someone 5′, 5″.

On the one hand, it makes sense that your health care provider is, well, healthy. So of course they also are excluding people with a BMI below 18.5 (110 pounds for that same 5′, 5″ person), because that’s considered unhealthy too.

Oh, never mind. They aren’t really. It’s only the fat people who are getting excluded.

To keep reading click here: Is it okay to discriminate against obese people?

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18 thoughts on “Is it okay to discriminate against obese people?

  1. The immediate question that comes to mind is, how will they find out the applicant’s weight? Do they already require a physical for every position offered? If so, how do they keep out of trouble with the ADA, if they start rejecting applicants due to health issues?

    1. It’s the same for smokers…. Actually I think it’s worse. Obese people and smokers are more of a liability to companies. I am a smoker and at my company, they charge you extra on your insurance if your bmi is to high or if you smoke. No one verifies it, it’s just based on the employee being honest, unless of course, you go the doctor! My company also offers lots of help… Free weight watchers, smoke free options, ect. I know Humana won’t allow any smokers work form them anymore, not sure about obese though.

    2. That is an excellent question. “So, George, we’d like to offer you this job, but first step on the scale!”

      Overweight isn’t covered by ADA. Problems associated with being overweight may be, depending, but not the weight itself.

  2. All other valid arguments aside…..I’d think they’re going to have a hard time finding people left to work for them!! Between making sure they’re qualified for the job itself and then not over their BMI restrictions…..that leaves a small pool of good applicants. The competing hospitals in the area are probably excited…..

    1. It’s a foolish position to take. I imagine they’ll find that out soon enough.

  3. Seeing as weight isn’t a protected class, yes they can do this but it’s awfully stupid. (Isn’t that usually the case?) I know, for me, BMI is an awful indicator of health. I’m perfectly healthy, great blood pressure, cholestrol, etc. I could stand to lose a few pounds, but that hasn’t impacted my health at all. This whole narrative about fat people being bad for insurance always makes me mad. Trust me, I don’t cost the insurance company anymore than a skinny person. And, of course, just because one is skinny doesn’t mean that they are healthy.
    What if someone is pregnant when they apply and the pregnancy weight puts them above the restricted bmi? Does someone in HR, IT, or legal really need to be a “healthy” weight just because they work in a hospital?

  4. What makes this worse is someone could actually be more unhealthy than someone with a higher BMI but that would be fine to these people because they “look healthy.” This seems an odd position to officially take for health care workers since one would assume they know better than most you can be sick and skinny too.

  5. I think this is a really interesting issue, and is analogous to the recent trend in health care employers (and others too) of refusing to hire smokers. You can make the case that health care employees should be healthy, but on the other hand certain states make it illegal to discriminate against employees for lawful activities outside of work. Feel free to take a look at my smoker’s post if you’re interested:

  6. My BMI is 39, but my bad cholesterol is fantastically low (quote from my doctor), every other indicator is in healthy range, and last year my doctor took me off blood pressure meds because I didn’t need them any more – to continue taking them would have put me dangerously low.

    I am a superb performer, I am asked to be the administrative member on nearly every testing and design project in my 4000+ employee medical center. Not that my boss would ever let me go, but if I was asked my BMI in an interview I would say something quite pointed and leave.

    (Oh, and 39? 5’4″, 225 lbs, size 20W.)

    1. And that’s precisely what I predict will happen. Why you would want to exclude potentially high performers is beyond me.

  7. It just seems like the policy is really dumb or an engeniously evil legal way to limit their pool of workers so they can pay people less, and fire someone after a set period of time. Nurses and doctors are notoriously stressed and pressed for time and sleep.
    Stress and
    lack of sleep lead to weight gain. So even if you hire someone who is borderline or normal weight, chances are their weight will shoot up when you overwork them (unless they shed weight when they’re under stress). Voila! A couple years of creeping weight gain, they are over the BMI limit and you can fire them if it’s in their contract. (We only hire people below a certain BMI so you must stay there; you’re over, let’s fire you.)

  8. I also think it’s very interesting that they are using Body Mass Index as the determination of whether an employee is overweight. My impression is that BMI is an out-dated method of determining someone’s ideal weight, after all there’s a lot more that needs to be considered in determining a healthy weight than just their height and weight.

  9. What I find interesting is this was NOT an issue with health insurance costs but rather an appearance issue. They make some reference to the policy being enforced for personal appearance reasons. I for one would not want to be patient at this hospital where they are more concerned with personal appearance than personal competence. “So sorry the patient died, but we looked good trying to save him”

  10. Sheesh, I was under the impression that only actresses and models had to worry about their BMI for work. 😛 I’m in reception/admin work. What’s next, if I don’t dye my hair blond I can’t work the front desk?

    I like what you said at the end of the article, Suzanne, about making the standards for the position being able to care for patients regardless of weight. If a person’s weight begins to make it difficult for them to do their job, then I would consider it a problem. If not, I don’t see the big deal.

  11. Yes, I’m fat. Yes, I’m an older employee with health problems. But many of these health problems are caused by stress from work, and from medical conditions not related at all to being fat. I’ve lost almost 40 pounds in the past year, and oddly my health has gotten much worse. I am not lazy, I have solid work ethics, and I work harder than many others in my organization.

    I think what disturbs me the most, though, is the comments on the cbs website full article – all the vindictiveness and hatred and nastiness directed at fat people. We are people, individuals, with our own personalities and our own feelings. What gives someone the right to hate me and discriminate against me because I weigh more than they do? Would those who commented be willing to say those things to me directly? Bigotry is bad, no matter who you are or what you weigh or what you look like.

    1. I agree. The comments on the CBS website totally disgusted me. Apparently, discrimination against the obese (I am obese myself) is still accepted, even encouraged based on what I saw.

  12. Hi, Thank you for sharing this interesting post. This policy is definitely discriminating. If hiring someone solely based on appearance, how would you know what they are capable of.

  13. I think it is ridiculous to make up such a rule against applicants. There shouldn’t be any requirements regarding appearance as long as the person can perform the job. The ADA should definitely forbid discrimination against BMI.

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