Weight: Hiring and Career Success in America 

Topics: Obesity, Discrimination, Body mass index Pages: 21 (6646 words) Published: November 19, 2011

“SKINNY PEOPLE HAVE IT ALL” Weight: A Deciding Factor for Hiring and Career Success in America Student: Dahlia Kelada University of Houston - Victoria

WEIGHT: HIRING AND CAREER SUCCESS IN AMERICA Abstract One would expect that when applying for a job, a hiring manager’s decision would be based on a candidate’s qualifications, skill set, potential, and a pleasing personality that would likely fit the norms of the organizational culture. In the United States, however, there is no existing federal legislation to protect obese individuals from weight-based discrimination. With the exception of Michigan, no other states have laws specifically in place for obesity discrimination. While this paper primarily represents findings in the United States, it can be representative of weight discrimination throughout the world. While it is expected that hiring managers are aware of discrimination laws and human resources best practices; education, skill, capabilities and personality come second to a person’s first impression — their physical appearance.


WEIGHT: HIRING AND CAREER SUCCESS IN AMERICA “SKINNY PEOPLE HAVE IT ALL” Weight: A Deciding Factor for Hiring and Career Success in America


The American Disabilities Act forbids discrimination with regard to employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotion, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other condition of employment (ADA, 1990). The U.S. Civil Rights Act further prohibits discrimination for non job-related factors such as age, gender, race, color, national origin and religion (CRA, 1964). Most people have heard of or experienced some degree of sexual or racial discrimination, and more recently religious intolerance. Through suggestive media messages and various cultural, and sociological norms, being “skinny” has been engrained in American society as being synonymous with “beautiful” or “good.” Ironically, about 70 million obese and 127 million overweight adults are in America, struggling to find a place in society where they can be accepted and given the same opportunities as those who are considered to be a normal weight. In 2008, the Center for Disease Control estimated that approximately 33 percent of men and 35 percent of women were obese. Research further shows that the statistic of obesity is on the rise (Rich & Evans, 2005; Lawrence, 2004; Bell, McLaughlin & Sequeira, 2004; Janssen, et. al., 2004; Lawrence, 2004; Heuer, et. al. 2011). Weight discrimination is just as impacting as gender, racial and religious discrimination. Obese people, after years of research, are found to experience considerable prejudice in their daily living, educational settings, health care, work place, with transportation and interpersonal relationships among family members and friends. Recent studies suggest that the prevalence of weight discrimination has increased by 66 percent over the past decade; and is found to be somewhat more prevalent than gender

WEIGHT: HIRING AND CAREER SUCCESS IN AMERICA discrimination in the United States (Puhl, Andreyeva & Brownell, 2008). Studies indicate that on average, individuals that report weight discrimination have a significantly higher body mass index (Puhl, et. al., 2008). And as this paper will


indicate, people who are considered to be obese will experience lower wages and reduced employment opportunities. Women are more vulnerable than men to experience weight-based discrimination. As evidence suggests, overweight women are evaluated more negatively than overweight men, and as a result, women are much more likely to experience weight-based discrimination (Fikkan & Rothblum, 2005; Puhl, et. al., 2008; Bell, et. al., 2004). It has been suggested that overweight or obese people are further ridiculed, ostracized, fired, denied promotions, and experience other negative consequences (Bell, et. al., 2004). Although as Puhl, Andreyeva, and...
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