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   As a result the job offer was rescinded and he was out on the street.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.

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    In reply to DerbyLady:

    you hit the nail right on the head! i am in my late 20, never had a job and am struggling to make it. i have been looking for a job on and off for the last 11+ years and not one company has given me a chance! whenever i show up somewhere to ask if they're hiring i get told no or that they want someone with "experience". on the latter part i don't see how taking orders at a fast food joint requires 3+ years of experience! or i get told to apply online which is even more frustrating because of those stupid screening surveys they make you take which i feel is they're way of secretly discriminating against everyone. i recently have been given unsolicited advice about going ahead and filling out an application online but then show up that same day or the next day to hand in a resume to the manager when they're at the place you're trying to apply for. this strategy has been a hit and miss for me. i have practiced this advice along with taking advantage of job resources to research what companies are hiring in my area, called the places up ahead of time to reassure myself that they are actually hiring and low and behold when i show up, dressed professionally which i'm busting my butt off in my suit in hot weather (luckily i try to cool myself down before i go to any places i'm trying to apply for) one of either a few things happen-1) i get lucky enough to get an interview on the spot (so need help working on my interview skills), 2) the manager is nice enough to schedule me for an interview, 3) i get a nice smile and told i can follow up on the status of my application in the near future, 4) the manager still discriminates against me by telling me they're not hiring/they're fully staffed/they're hiring for a different position then the one i tried to apply for/blahblahfrigginblah! wtf!? i am fully convinced that corportate america is more to blame for the current economic recession we're experiencing right now and lack of a good work/labor force than the typical bullshit that young people like myself are just "spoiled and lazy!" bullfriggincrap! we as a society need to be part of the solution and figure out to fix this problem of fat discrimination in the work place. there have been very few places i've gone to where i've seen fatter than me employees which is a sign that employers know that their fat discrimination is wrong! how in the world did someone fatter than me even get a job!? i'm doing everything i can to lose weight which is slowly working for me but regardless i still experience fat discrimination. our society wonders why young guys like me have to resort to drastic measures such as becoming perpetual students (wonder how long it'll take before community colleges start discriminating against fat students) and aren't actually working!?

  • 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?

  • Why didn't he ask his interviewer if he could have an opportunity to lose weight and get in shape and prove how much he wants to work for the company? I don't want to hire people that are obese because clearly there is something so bad in their life that they feel the need to over eat to cope or punish themselves with a form of self mutilation. I was the biggest binge eater eating 20-30 donuts a weekend and eating FOURTHS - not seconds, and it was because I didn't like myself and my situation and I was addicted to food to cope with it. If you think that it's not true for everyone, ask yourself DEEEP down inside, WHY are you obese? WHY do you eat so much? WHY don't you exercise? WHY won't you get it under control? Obesity KILLS. We shouldn't be making 4XL clothes and promoting equality among weight sizes, we should be asking obese people how we can help them get healthy and welfare shouldn't kick in for people too fat to work, it should use that money to make them get proper healthcare and a diet and fitness regimen to get them down to a healthy weight so they can get their lives back. If you have a problem with what I said, take all of your clothes off and look in the mirror and then look in your fridge and clear out anything unhealthy and commit yourself to making a 3 week change to drink more water, eat only nutritious and healthy food, and get in a 30 minute walk or exercise every day and you have the knowledge and authority to come back to this post after the 3 weeks and share your thoughts with me on this, or if you've failed to do that for 3 weeks(which forms a habit), you will see that I am right and you can look deep down and figure out WHY you are punishing yourself by eating so much and eating so poorly. I have family members who are extremely obese and I've lost 25 pounds and I've been fat, super skinny, skinny fat, and muscular and the happiest I am is muscular, eating properly every meal and exercising daily. I have been every weight so you cannot tell me that I don't have the knowledge to be correct on this topic.

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    Sadly, there are quite a few overweight-obese people who do exercise and try and eat healthy and in spite of it they are still overweight and obese and still get judged as such. These people are not “self abusers” and they don’t “hate themselves.” In fact, they are trying to led healthier lifestyles but frustratingly continue to either gain weight or plateau where their weight remains the same in spite of what they do. It’s the exact opposite of the person who eats garbage and more garbage, never exercises and never gains a pound. People who try get nowhere, some give up some stick with it in spite of seeing no obvious results. But a lot of people are trying/doing things about their obesity so not all overweight and obese people should be painted with the same brush.

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    In reply to Jonathan Tees:

    Legitimate medical reasons for a person being overweight-obese for reasons beyond their control such as an under active thyroid or poor metabolism are frequently downplayed and made out to be “lame excuses.” But if you really think about it, who is to say that the person would not be thin or at least average weight if not for one or more of these problems? Compared to certain people who don’t suffer from these issues, the overweight-obese person may actually live a healthier lifestyle in terms of their level of activity and diet.

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