Not Getting A Job Because You Are Fat? You Are Out Of Luck

Not Getting A Job Because You Are Fat?  You Are Out Of Luck

I recently got a call from a guy who applied for a job with a Chicago area company.  He went through an interview and was offered the job pending the passing of a physical.   Naturally he was excited because any job in this day and age is a good one, but this was with a company that he really wanted to work for.

He and his potential boss had agreed on a salary, benefits and a start date.  He went for the physical and felt it went fine.  He could do everything they asked him to do.  He's never had a major injury or illness and said that he's never not been able to do work in any job he's held in the past because of anything physical.

Low and behold, the physical comes back and the examiner says that he is obese and possibly a risk in the work place.   As a result the job offer was rescinded and he was out on the street.  To make matters worse, he had been offered another job that he turned down because of this new job and that was no longer available.

He called me looking for a referral to an Chicago labor lawyer who would sue this company on his behalf for discrimination.

He's right, he was discriminated against.  But there is nothing he can do as it's not illegal to discriminate against someone who is overweight.  And if it's not illegal it's not a case.

We've seen similar situations with people losing jobs because they smoke, did drugs, wore "weird" clothing, had too many tattoos or were Chicago White Sox fans (that last one seems justified).  The general reasoning behind that is these are all things you can control.  Although you can also lose out on a job for something you can't control such as the boss wanting to hire their cousin/boyfriend/neighbor, etc.

When thinking about whether or not you have a case, take out all of the emotion/anger/frustration you have and simply think to yourself, is this legal or illegal?  It's only illegal if it's for some reason protected under the law such as age (40+), race, religion, sexual orientation (that's an IL law only, not Federal law), gender, because you are pregnant, because you report illegal activity, etc.

If you don't have something like that and aren't in a union, you are likely out of luck.

The recent caller was a good guy with a great attitude and I'm sure he'll land on his feet.  But as for suing, it's not an option and likely never will be for anyone else in the same shoes.

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  • I'm pretty sure the guy who interviewed him isn't an Olympic triathlete either.

    Fat people need love too, especially fat women. I try to do my part with that.

  • Discrimination against overweight/obese people is the last bastion of socially accepted prejudice (followed closely by age discrimination). Society is obsessed with skinny (followed closely by youth). The examiner says "possibly" a risk in the workplace? Well so are the anorexic, the boozer and the cigarette smoker. Too bad he didn't get the typical 90 day opportunity to see if he could perform his responsibilities.

  • And in most states you can be fired for being gay. I don't agree with either premise, but just telling it like it is.

  • Actually, at least one court has said that obesity was a perceived disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If someone assumes that you can't do a job because of your weight and use that as the basis for firing you, that can potentially be a valid case. I've only seen it in cases where the person was already hired, though, so I don't know if it counts with hiring cases (and I'm not a labor attorney!).

    DerbyLady said it all.

  • Illinois is an at will employment state. An employer can decide or not to hire anyone or fire anyone for no reason unless the person is a member of a protected class. Generally protected classes are people who do have the ability to change things like their race, gender etc. People are obese because they take in more calories than they burn. Overweight people often do not get much exercise. Weight is closely associated with diabetes, joint problems and a whole host of other problems. Why should an employer assume such risk for health care costs?

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    Actually, the state of Michigan has a law against size discrimination that not only addrsses weight, but also height. Several municipalities also have anti-size discrinination laws. It's unfortunate that Chicago is not one of them.

  • What about suing the medical provider who provided the derogatory and slanderous physical condition report. By law they violated patient confidentiality, and documented a slanderous opinion that contradicted the man's measured physical abilities.

  • In reply to Griffer:

    Good question. Since that doctor wasn't a treating doctor, he was not bound to the patient. His loyalty is to the company. And even so, you can't get sued typically for your opinion.

  • Obesity is a CREATED “CRISIS” that benefits pharma, they own the market on Splenda, that stops the beneficial bacteria from working in the gut, and Ethicon-Endo bariatric surgery. Demonizing the overweight is a brilliant marketing scam for anti-obesity products that will lead the way for insurance companies to reject people UNLESS they have bariatric surgery! Pharma reps The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation visited the White House 7 times, more than the Secretary of State with the drafting of the health care bill. The RWJF owns tens of millions of shares of Johnson & Johnson. They have inserted their fellows free of charge to the taxpayer into the government at their own expense. Michele Obama has one of her own for this war on the obese and overweight. Why? They will PROFIT from laws and policies made in their own interest. HOW ON EARTH DID WE BECOME A NATION LIKE THIS???

  • BULL! If the employer PERCEIVES obesity as a disability, then this individual has a valid claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Please please do a follow-up column with an attorney who is experienced with the ADA.

  • Sir--

    It's "LO." As in "Lo and behold."

    Not "LOW"

    "Who needs editors?" The publishing industry, 2011

  • In reply to Maxwell:

    Bloggers don't get editors. But at least I have you. :)

  • Oops---forgot my period in "Low."

  • Will gladly do that if you can find a labor attorney who agrees with you, but the truth is that this theory has been tried and failed.

  • Didn't they see he was fat in person at the interview? And if not, he must not have been that overweight, in which case couldn't he legally challenge the doctor for the loss of opportunity?

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