Weight Bias Discrimination
Weight Bias Discrimination
By Michael Boyajian
Discrimination is a varied problem crossing all demographics of the population and most of its forms are protected against by a host of federal and state laws. However, the Obesity Society reports that 66% of Americans are overweight or obese and Yale University’s Rudd Center goes on in its study to state that 43% of these people have been discriminated against because of their weight.
Weight bias is a serious form of discrimination with those surveyed by the Rudd Center indicating that they have faced discrimination in employment, education and by their healthcare providers. Employers view this group as being poorly disciplined, having low supervisory potential, poor personal hygiene, low ambition and low productivity. Clearly the overweight and obese are being stigmatized by society.
Unfortunately legal protections are limited. The only state offering protection is Michigan. Only three cities offer protection and they are Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Santa Cruz. Legislation is pending in Massachusetts and the issue is under review by the New York State Division of Human Rights. There are no federal protections against it.
Studies go on to report that this group earns less than others which is a painful reminder that those who suffered racial or gender discrimination in the past also had an adverse impact on their earning levels. For them the problem was legally corrected while those suffering weight bias find little help under the law at this time.
Weight bias extends beyond employment, education and healthcare going into one’s travel and vacation plans. Some airlines have insisted those with weight stigma purchase two seats on their planes. The problem even spills into the retail clothing industry. An informal survey of retailers showed that many failed to offer large sizes in stores or online. Some stores even had segregated sections for those with weight stigma evidencing an out of sight out of mind attitude. Also affected were those people requiring small sizes. The problem existed for both men’s and women’s apparel.
Weight bias has experienced little media attention and, but for the limited legal protection it has gained, not much has been done to end the problem. Discrimination has reared its ugly head in the context of race, national origin, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation and disability to name but a few areas having legal protections at both the state and federal level. It is now time to provide legal protections to those suffering from weight stigma, a form of discrimination that has been ignored for far too long by people and federal and state legislators.
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