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Study shows hiring managers biased against obesity

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the controversy surrounding a hospital in Victoria, Texas. For those who haven't heard about it, the hospital has enforced for more than a year a policy that prohibits the hiring of anyone with a body mass index of more than 35. While many are outraged at the concept, the policy is not necessarily illegal. And a recent study shows that Texas is not alone in the discriminatory practices against overweight workers.

The study, which was published recently in the International Journal of Obesity, looked at the role obesity can play in hiring practices. As it turns out, obesity discrimination is a quiet, but major problem in the workplace.

Researchers studied hiring managers by giving those who participated several resumes that included pictures of the job applicant. Each resume had two pictures attached -- one of the applicant before a weight-loss surgery, and one from after the operation. The results are startling.

The researchers found that obese women were negatively affected in several aspects of the hiring process, including perceived leadership potential, starting salary and being chosen for the job. Interestingly, researchers also noticed that if the people who were responsible for hiring a new employee were confident with their own weight and physical appearance, they were more likely to be discriminatory toward obese candidates.

As we can see from this study and the current hiring policy at the Victoria hospital, overweight workers are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to being hired. And while many other forms of discrimination are banned from the workplace, policies against obesity discrimination are extremely rare. In fact, only one state has specific laws around banning discrimination against overweight individuals. As awareness of this serious issue continues to grow, hopefully Texas and other states will make an effort to protect all workers from discrimination.

Source: TIME Moneyland, "Why Being Overweight Could Earn You a Lower Salary," Josh Sanburn, May 2, 2012

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