Half of Workers Polled Think Fat Employees Are Discriminated Against

November 6, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Roughly half (47%) of American workers think their co-workers and supervisors in the workplace are discriminating against their obese colleagues.

Even for those that do not experience discrimination, more than three out of 10 (32%) workers polled by the Employment Law Alliance (ELA) said plus-sized workers are less likely to be respected and taken seriously in the office. A similar number (30%) think these patronizing actions are reflected in overweight workers being less likely to be hired or promoted, according to the ELA’s America At Work survey.

To combat this problem, 31% of the survey sample think obese workers deserve special government protection against weight-based discrimination. Not surprisingly though, the results on this differed on how people perceived their own weight situation. Of those that labeled themselves as “normal/underweight” only 26% agreed with special government protection for obese workers, versus 38% of those that labeled themselves “overweight/obese.”

Further divergence was found in the number of overweight workers that had actually experienced weight-relateddiscrimination in either their current or former workplace (11%) versus the 48% of this group that agree it occurs.

“Obesity is at crisis proportions in America as a health issue but not as an employment issue,” said Stephen Hirschfeld, CEO and founder of ELA, and a partner in the California-based employment law firm of Curiale, Dellaverson, Hirschfeld, Kraemer and Sloan, LLP, “at least not yet. Employers have to realize – and for many this poll will serve as a wake-up call – that they are looking at a problem that could rival or surpass that of gender and race discrimination in the workplace. Now is the time for education and communication, or increased regulation and litigation won’t be far off.”

More information on the American At Work survey is available at http://www.employmentlawalliance.com .