Fat Workers Get Thinner Paychecks

September 6, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The paychecks of obese workers are, on average, about 2.5% less than the paychecks of their thinner coworkers, according to a new study.

Overweight women wind up with as much as 6.2% less according to a report in USA Today, citing a study submitted to the journal Health Economics.

The study used Bureau of Labor Statistics data from annual surveys. The same 12,000 workers each year reported their height and weight as well as their income.

Obese workers overall suffered a wage penalty in the range of 1.4% to 4.5%, according to the report. The penalty for obese women ranged from 2.3% to 6.2% vs. a range of 0.7% to 2.6% for men.

Pound Foolish?

While obese men face discrimination, it typically doesn’t really take hold until they are very obese, Miriam Berg, president of the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination, told USA Today.  Berg said women encounter weight discrimination for being just 30 pounds overweight, she says.

The study used the most common definition of obesity, a man or woman with a body mass index (BMI) of 30. The BMI is a formula that takes the height of a person into account.  The federal government says 61% of Americans weigh too much, and 26% are deemed obese.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says it rarely pursues a case against a company for discrimination based on obesity, according to the report.