Can Being Overweight Make You Less Hirable?

A new Washington Post article has bad news for jobseekers who are medically classified as overweight. The article references a recent Plos One study on hireability and weight. According to the study, even a few extra pounds can hurt your chances of being hired, especially if you are a woman.

Researchers told 60 men and 60 women to picture themselves as recruiters tasked with looking at photos of job candidates. These photos included four men and four women, some of whom were digitally altered to appear a few pounds heavier. None of these photos included workers who would be classified as obese by doctors.

The group of fake job recruiters were told these potential hires had equal qualifications. Researchers then asked recruiters to rank their hireability on a scale of one to seven. According to the results, heavier men lost .26 points and women lost .66 points.

If this study is correct, it would appear even a slight increase in weight appears to harm an applicant’s chances of being hired. Fortunately, there are some cases where discriminating in such a way could be illegal.

Is Weight Discrimination Legal During the Hiring Process?

Only San Francisco and Santa Cruz have laws that mention workplace discrimination and appearance. However, there are still other cases where this type of discrimination might be illegal. This could include a woman who has put on a few pounds due to a pregnancy, or someone who has gained weight as the result of taking a medication. Many anti-depressants used to treat depression list weight gain as a side effect. If someone is undergoing treatment for a disability, employers could run afoul of the law if they discriminate.

Workers cannot be fired due to medical conditions beyond their control, so long as they can perform the tasks they are being hired for without putting undue hardships on their employers.

Jobseekers and employees who suspect they are victims of weight discrimination have several ways to gather proof. They could look into whether the position was still open after receiving a rejection letter, or evidence they were not hired despite being qualified. Employees should hang on to paperwork given to them after being fired.

The Los Angeles labor law attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. are dedicated to standing up for workers who have been unfairly targeted by workplace discrimination.

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