Varying degrees of discrimination exist around the world. Whether on a personal or professional level, it can be surprising to realize how strongly established some prejudices are, and how they can affect people in a real world environment. While there are many different laws and established practices designed to help keep such discrimination in check, there are certain cases that go unnoticed. Weight discrimination is one of the biggest problems in the workplace. Because the current federal discrimination laws do not protect obesity, many obese people claim that they suffer discrimination on a regular basis. Obesity is defined according to the BMI scale. According to this scale, a number between 25 and 29 signifies being overweight, a BMI over 30 signifies being obese, and a BMI over 40 signifies extreme obesity. The following infographic, created by Eastern Kentucky University’s online Masters in Safety, Security and Emergency Management, takes a closer look at the issues and prejudices overweight individuals face in the workplace.
Obesity in the United States
Over one hundred and fifty million Americans over the age of twenty are obese. 79.9 million of these obese individuals are men, and 74.8 of them are women. Studies show that obese men between the ages of twenty and sixty four pay over a thousand dollars more every year on their medical costs than do people of a healthy weight. Obese women in the same weight range will pay over three thousand six hundred dollars more per year in medical costs than others.
Together, studies show that obese people spend as much as 42% more on their medical costs than healthier people. These statistics typically find relevance in the workplace as well. 27.7% of all United States workers are obese. Some of the highest risk professions that these people are in include roles such as police officers and other guard duties, architects and engineers, social workers and counselors, and truckers and mass transit officials. While these are the most commonly documented professions, obese people find employment in hundreds of other careers all over the country, and many experience discrimination in their professional environments, to some extent.
Weight Discrimination in the Workplace
There is a tremendous amount of employer bias in the workplace. Ninety three percent of all employers would rather choose a potential employee that was of normal weight than they would somebody who was visibly overweight. Sixty seven percent of employees who received some type of health coverage were also required to meet certain weight guidelines to get the benefits. Employers usually have many different thoughts when it comes to overweight employees in the workplace. Seventy percent, the vast majority, of employers believe that the condition is genetic. Fifty nine percent believe that it is a preventable condition that can be treated according to the person’s will. Fifty seven percent of employers believe that it is a result of poor willpower and that obesity is a disease. Forty four percent of employers also believe that it is simply caused by poor life choices.
Implications of Weight Discrimination
Many direct negative results come from such discrimination. It was reported that heavy women earned nine thousand dollars less on average than those who were at a normal weight. Very heavy women earned as much as nineteen thousand dollars less. In general averages, obese men and obese women earn two and four, respectively, less dollars per hour than their more even-weight counterparts. 45% to 61% of all male CEOs are overweight, compared to 5% to 22% of all female CEOs who are overweight. Obesity in employees can end up costing employers as much as one to six thousand additional dollars in expenses every year. Obesity alone can cost employers as much as seventy three billion dollars every year, in terms of health care hours, general productivity, and lost work. Over ten percent of United States corporate healthcare costs are directly related to obesity and its various complications. Obese people, on average, will cost more than twice what healthy people do, in terms of medical claims, sick days, and other disability programs.
While obesity is a serious problem that affects many Americans, many think that it should be handled with a higher level of tact and dignity. This is especially important in regards to the workplace. Over 81% of women and 65% of men have expressed their support for proposed laws that would have workplaces put clearly defined legal limits on weight discrimination. Many believe that this is a good first step in helping solve the problem for the long term. While it may cost employers in yearly expenses, the vast majority is not ready to address the issue. It is believed that until stronger laws, which define the discrimination at hand, are introduced, employers will continue to discriminate against obese people. This, in turn, creates additional hurdles and hardships that the overweight will need to overcome to enjoy a healthier life.
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