Report Counters View of Obese Workers

July 23, 2008 ( - A new report from Michigan State University and Hope College researchers shows overweight and obese employees are no different from their thin coworkers.

While employers may view their larger workers as unproductive (See Obesity Linked to Significant Productivity Loss ), the research found overweight employees do not fit negative productivity stereotypes, the Detroit Free Press reported.

MSU author Mark Roehling, a lawyer and associate professor of human resources management, and his wife and coauthor, Hope College psychologist Patricia Roehling, compared individuals’ weight, body-mass index, and percentage of fat to self-reported personality traits. They found that people with excess weight were no more likely to be lazy, uncooperative, or pessimistic than those of normal weight.

“Employers should be careful that they are going to get sued. They are treating employees unfairly in the first place and wasting human resources in the context that they are relying on these weight-based stereotypes,” said Mark Roehling, according to the news report.

A 1999 study by Mark Roehling found weight bias by employers at every stage of employment, from career counseling to salaries to firing. Other studies claim there are multibillion-dollar health care costs for overweight and obese people (See Conference Board Weighs In on Obesity Costs ). Roehling suggests that having numbers and dollar figures enables employers to discriminate against obese people on the basis of those projections.