UK Expert: Fat People Should Receive Privileges at Work

Fat people should be allowed to come to work an hour late, in order to miss rush hour, as well as other protections, according to Prof Stephen Bevan a member of Public Health England’s advisory boardThe Mirror.

He suggests that fat should be classified as a “protected characteristic” which would mean discrimination based on waist size would be illegal.

In the United States, protected characteristics are almost all “immutable” characteristics as well–that is things you can’t change. Federal law recognizes race, color, national origin, religion, gender (including pregnancy), disability, age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), and citizenship status. Only religion and citizenship are things that are changeable, although some would argue gender is also not immutable.

Fat is not currently protected under US federal law (nor under UK law, but this professor is arguing it should be), and it should remain that way. (Some local and state laws declare obesity a protected class.) Being fat is not an immutable characteristic, nor is it a fundamental part of your life the way religion is.

This is not to say that fat people don’t face discrimination. They do.

To keep reading, click here: UK Expert: Fat People Should Receive Privileges at Work

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17 thoughts on “UK Expert: Fat People Should Receive Privileges at Work

  1. Disclaimer: I’m fat, but not mortally so. It’s difficult to figure out the claimed connection between being fat and needing to avoid rush hour. It would have been helpful to include that in the story. Not all protected characteristics are immutable, now that the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) allows just about anything to be considered a disability, and requires the effects of mitigating measures — other than eyeglasses or contact lenses — to be ignored. Obesity can be considered a disability, provided there is a physiological basis for it, — such as a glandular dysfunction — and it can certainly contribute to other conditions (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) that are, normally, considered disabilities. There, certainly, is a lot of discrimination against fat people, although it seems to be lessening somewhat, now that we are all getting fatter, have celebrated plus-size models and “fat-shaming” is frowned upon. I don’t agree that we are looking to recognize new bases for discrimination because discrimination has been largely eliminated in our society. To the contrary, discrimination is still alive and (un) well.

    1. My guess is that the need to avoid rush hour involves using public transportation – and needing to avoid crowded trains/buses because of your size.

      I don’t believe we should be adding obesity to the list of protected classes, but I do want to push back on the idea that weight loss is “entirely in our control.” To paraphrase one of my favorite (non-HR) bloggers, telling a fat person it’s just a matter of “calories in, calories out” is like telling a drowning person they just need to swim. If sustained weight-loss were that easy, the US wouldn’t be dealing with an obesity crisis.

      1. Me too on this one. Many people think that overweight is a choice people make, that they can choose to lose weight by eating differently. But 95% of diets fail to keep weight off for a year. I’m the person who packs in food like fat people are said to do and I’m always at normal weight. I see overweight coworkers try to fuel their workdays on celery sticks and never get thinner. Yet their weight draws public censure when my will-powerless eating habits probably deserve it more. I’m not sure about the commute hours provision but we Americans should at least accept that overweight is a medical issue and protect such people against job discrimination.

        1. I don’t buy it. This is like the argument that ‘violent video games cause violent behavior;’ another abdication of personal responsibility. If all your friends were jumping into a lake of fat, would you?

  2. I was with you till you brought up religion. Religion can be changed on a whim, not so obesity.

  3. We would accomplish more by badgering the medical profession into a more rational definition of what constitutions being overweight. It’s so screwed up right now that people who are in the “normal” category have a shorter life expectancy than people who are “overweight.”

    The problem with the “obesity epidemic” go far, far beyond whether or not it’s easy to lose weight, and most of them relate to the multi-billion dollar weight loss industries.

  4. Thanks for the article, and I particularly enjoyed the link to the journal article about concept creep. While I do think we have a lot of legitimate problems in this world (do we ever!), I do think the concept creep idea is a valid one. It makes a lot of sense, and it explains some of what we’re seeing, as well, in the world today. Also, as someone who has pretty much always been overweight after puberty, I can 100% proclaim weight is not strictly choice. I also rescue dogs. I’ve seen a lot of dogs and a lot of dog body styles — enough to know that diet and exercise aren’t the only things in play. When a 44 pound dog is the same height as 77 pound dog, they’ve both been different body styles since puppies, and the 44 pound dogs eats about three times the amount as the 77 pound dog, I can safely say there’s something else going on besides diet and exercise. That being said, overweight people like myself and my mother and my sister can and do get to work on time just fine. Every day. Early even. Talk about an insulting notion.

    1. Reading the article in The Mirror, it’s pretty clear he’s not saying that all overweight or obese people need to avoid rush hour (again, seems tied to public transit which has challenges for folks with limited mobility when crowded), but gave it as an example of things companies might consider where people ARE having problems – with the goal of helping people who do want to work keep their jobs.

      1. Then that is a limited mobility issue, not a weight issue. Of course, the mobility issues might be caused by or exacerbated by the weight. But as I see it, you don’t say “obese people should be given accommodations.” You say, “People with these limitations” should be given accommodations, whether the limitations are caused by obesity or some other underlying medical issue.

  5. Discrimination does indeed occur. Currently my employer will penalize you if your body mass index, cholesterol, and/or blood sugar is not within specifications. Your cost of benefits could be up to $1200 per year more.

    1. I’m just under the threshold to be considered obese. Yet I’m only 10 lbs above my high school weight where I spent summers working with a 30 lb chain saw at altitudes around 10,000 feet. And we’d play 2 hours of soccer after work at base camp at 7500 feet.

      I think that the definition of ‘obese’ really needs to find a link to reality.

    2. Given that my ability to exercise is limited by the arthritis, and my food intake strictly governed by the diabetes (and my A1C is dead on where the doctor wants it), I think that might not work out too well for them in all cases.

      (Is it still illegal to base insurance premiums on pre-existing conditions?)

    3. My Doctor and I have those facts, and my employer should not. No one should be penalized, to me, that is discrimination.

  6. The concept of changing schedules to accommodate travel needs of any individual is simply a flex schedule argument for all. Too many companies work key hours around those “business hours” which really don’t reflect today’s society of 24/7 content. Just think of how banks process transactions for a limited period of time while we bank all day. The only good thing I got from this article was another area of bias thinking was discussed.

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