Why Weight Discrimination Persists In The U.S. Workplace

Why Weight Discrimination Persists In The U.S. Workplace

There is this study out of Harvard
last year that looked at how our biases changed over time. Researchers examined data collected over
a nine year period that measured implicit and explicit
bias against certain marginalized groups. When people were asked to
evaluate their own explicit biases, data showed that over the course
of those nine years, racism dropped by 37 percent. Anti-gay attitudes declined
by nearly half. And bias against high weight
people declined by 15 percent. But when they measured implicit bias,
which are our assumptions and attitudes that we may not be aware
of or willing to express, it showed something much different. The research found that people
were drastically underestimating their own biases. Unconscious racism had only
declined by 17 percent. Anti-gay sentiments declined
by a third. And bias against high -weight people
actually increased by 5 percent. One of the things we know
about intergroup relations is what’s supposed to happen is when you have
more contact with, say, a person who doesn’t look like you, it
should reduce your prejudice for that person the more you interact with
them and the better quality relationships you have with them. And what’s interesting about weight is
that doesn’t seem to be happening. And we don’t
really know exactly why. But we do know that stigma,
particularly for weight, is really, really hard to reduce. Studies show that these negative attitudes
have had an impact on high weight people in the workplace. We live in a society where
negative stereotypes towards people who have high body weight
are very common. And those are stereotypes that people
are lazy or lacking willpower or discipline or are even less
intelligent than others because of their body weight. And those
kinds of stereotypes and negative attitudes become translated into overt
forms of unfair treatment and discrimination. Michigan is the only
state that has passed legislation that makes weight
discrimination explicitly illegal. And there are a handful
of cities that have passed anti-discrimination ordinances that
address weight. But there is currently no federal
law protecting high weight people from discrimination. So how much weight discrimination is
there in the workplace and what can we do about it? There is
a lot of disagreement about what language to use when referring
to high weight people. Elizabeth Kristen is the director of
the Gender Equity and LGBT Rights Program for a non-profit organization
called Legal Aid at Work in California. In 2002, she wrote
an article for UC Berkeley Law Review titled “Addressing the Problem
of Wage Discrimination in Employment,” which explored how this
issue can be handled using existing laws. I think there’s been a real medicalization
at times of the issue of weight. And so people, I think
generally are comfortable with this language of obesity and
body mass index. But it’s actually a really alienating
experience for people who have what these days were
calling high -weight individuals Because it’s very factual. It’s very much not implying a
whole bunch of medical judgments about the way. But it is recognizing the
reality that people, at least in our current society, who have
different body weights, may face different barriers to society. A lot of the academic community
still uses medical terms such as “obese” or “overweight.” But many activists and other
high-weight individuals feel these terms pathologize their bodies. For the purposes of this video, we’ve
chosen to use the terms “high -weight” and “people of size,”
except when referring specifically to research that uses
specific terminology. High-weight individuals report discrimination in
all aspects of life, but specifically in the workplace. Mary Himmelstein is an assistant
professor at Kent State University who studies weight stigma. People with obesity are seen as less
hirable, are seen as having less supervisory potential, are hired less often
— when they are, are hired at lower salaries. If it’s in a job that’s existing,
people are willing to penalize them more relative to thin applicants. What’s really interesting about this literature
is even when you have a resumé of an unqualified applicant
who’s thin, they’re still seen as better for the job than a
higher body weight applicant who is qualified for it. There are also
reports of people of size being relegated to what researchers
call non-contact positions. If you imagine a receptionist, for
example, someone who can be the face of the business, someone who
every client comes in and interacts with, it’s very unlikely that the
receptionist would be the high weight individual. If they do
hire a high-weight individual, they’d be more likely to put them in
a job behind the scenes in the mailroom, for example, or somewhere where
they’re not going to be the face of the company
interacting with the public. And the discrimination worsens when
other factors are taken into consideration, such as gender. It does tend to be something
that more women report than men, particularly at lower levels of
overweight compared to men. So for women, for example, weight
discrimination may kick in even if their BMI is only a little bit
higher than what we would consider to be at a normal
or thinner body type. Whereas for men that weight
discrimination doesn’t kick in until higher levels of obesity. High-weight people are also consistently
paid less than their thinner colleagues. A 2004 study found
that obese men made 3.4 percent less than their thinner counterparts
and obese women made 6.1 percent less. Where you start on
the ladder is really important for where you end up on
the ladder for salary. So if you start low at salary,
that means even if you’re getting increases in bumps, you’re essentially
going to stay lower. And if you’re also getting lower
increases, then you might see a larger gap as you move up in
the work force rather than a smaller one. A 2009 study estimates that between
five and 22 percent of top female CEOs in the U.S. were overweight. The same study found that
a lot more male CEOs were overweight somewhere between 45 and
61 percent, suggesting that standards are more forgiving for men
when it comes to body size. And the discrimination documented in
these studies doesn’t stop at hiring or wages. Inappropriate comments and interactions with
colleagues at work can sometimes rise to the
level of harassment. Workplace harassment looks like, at least
in the case law that I talked about in my article,
was really open, almost playground harassment that you would imagine
seeing at a great school. You know, people being called names
like Fatty or Butterball, you know, those kinds of names. That’s clearly inappropriate in the workplace,
but it also may be illegal. This treatment can also
come in more subtle forms. Every single employment experience that
I’ve had has had some negative experience for sure. That’s Lauren Haber Jonas. She’s the CEO of Part &
Parcel, a plus-sized clothing company that offers customers the opportunity to
earn a commission through their partnership program. My first job out of college was at
a Fortune 10 company, a very large tech company. And we were given t-shirts
as like a cohort of college grads joining the company. And there was not one in
my size , men or women. So I was the person that had to
figure out how to cut the cut the sides up my t-shirt and sew them
together with shoelaces at the time during a retreat. She realized how
difficult it was for plus-sized women to access
professional clothing. And it led to feeling like
she didn’t belong at work. The real sort of crux of Part & Parcel
was was for me as an 18 year old kid in college wearing a
man’s suit to two college internship interviews. And I still vividly remember what
it was like to not only be chastised overtly from both the
interviewers and my peers, but to feel out of place
and therefore less confident. We started specifically with workwear
product for these reasons. We have heard from women time
and time again that she’s 35. She’s 40. She hasn’t worn a
non-stretchy pants since she was 18. Can you imagine walking into a
high -powered environment or job interviewing environment in
an leggings? Additionally, physical workspaces are often
not designed with high -weight employees needs in mind. Other things that people tend to
experience in the workplace that we don’t tend to think about
are things like physical barriers. So having chairs that have arms
on them that not necessarily all people can easily fit into can
be a problem and an embarrassing problem to have to go
to your co-worker to address. Research shows that experiencing weight
stigma in the workplace has severe impacts on
people’s well-being. We know that when people experience
weight stigma, that this worsens health not just in terms of
their emotional well-being, but also their physical health as well. And so I think it’s helpful to
really think about weight stigma, not only as a social justice issue, but
also as a public health issue that we need to address. Research shows that people who
have experienced weight stigma have higher rates of psychological disorders
such as depression or anxiety. And they are less likely
to want to engage in physical activity or exercise. There are also studies that
show experiencing weight stigma causes overeating or binge eating. There are also studies documenting
physical side effects to weight stigma that can be measured
independent of someone’s body weight. It induces stress in your body and
you can see that in your physiological systems and that in and
of itself actually can cause a number of problems down the line. So if this is something that you
are experiencing over and over and over again and it’s essentially a
normal part of your everyday life, then eventually five, 10, 15 years
down the road, you’re going to start to see problems in your biological
systems in your body and the cardiovascular system, and the endocrine system
as a result of wear and tear from the extra stress
that you’re getting from being stigmatized. And again, over
and beyond BMI. Despite a large body of
academic research documenting weight discrimination in the workplace,
there aren’t comprehensive laws addressing the issue. That word, for example, weight showing
up in the statute and saying it’s illegal for an employer to
discriminate on that basis is actually a very rare part of
the law in the United States. The state of Michigan has had
a law prohibiting weight and height discrimination since the 70s. It was really on the vanguard,
but no other states successfully followed that. There is substantial
support from Americans for laws to make it illegal to discriminate
on the basis of weight. But we’ve also looked at public support
for kind of creating a new form of legislation that
would specifically prohibit weight discrimination in the workplace. That would make it illegal for
employers to refuse to hire someone because of their weight or to assign
them lower wages or to terminate them from a position unfairly
because of their weight. We’re seeing as much as 80 percent
of folks in our studies across the country are supporting
these measures. So why hasn’t there been
more legislation addressing this issue? The kinds of opposing arguments that have
been raised in the past are concerns that if we pass a law
like this, that it would open the floodgates for lawsuits,
for example. But if we look at the case of
Michigan, that hasn’t been the case at all. In fact, the opposite. We really have seen very few
cases, probably because it’s sending a message that people are aware of
and they’re preventing these issues from happening in the first place. Many of the experts we spoke
with suggested that employers take the initiative to try to
prevent discrimination without formal legislation requiring it. The best companies, the ones
who take either H.R. practices really seriously. They’re going to conduct training
for their frontline managers. They’re going to make sure that
they intervene and stop weight based discrimination because it can
lead to a lawsuit. And even if a company ultimately
prevails in a lawsuit about weight discrimination, lawsuits are going to
be for a company, expensive, distracting — not what you want
of you spending your time on. Plus, why would weight discrimination
bring any value to your company? Why would you want to
indulge people to, you know, harass people with these kind of schoolyard
epithets like, you know, Fatty and Butterball? I have received
increasing interest from employers about what they can do
to address this problem. And, you know, I think within the
workplace, this is a logical topic that needs to be included in
things like harassment, training or diversity, education or also education
and training for H.R. folks and managers. So there are a lot of,
I think, relevant places and opportunities where we can really increase education
on this issue in the workplace. You know, I’ve been in this
field for almost 20 years and I’m seeing more positivity, more
support, more recognition of weight stigma, t hat this is a legitimate
form of bias in recent years than I have before. And I think that
shift in societal attitudes is going to be very important.


  1. Just get exercise, Or not. They’re not gonna live longer than normal people. Why passed a law that makes them ok to work if they are using money for just food.

  2. People of sizes are just making fun of the real people who have disability and mental health. They just want attention. They just lazy people. Just exercise.

  3. 9:15 to 9:31

    Wait so, it's a bigger public health issue than obesity? The actual thing that has been described by the medical professional community as an epidemic?

  4. Not to be a weightist, but at one point we have a very heavy uk expat guy who have broke two chairs in cafeteria. So we have to change our entire cafeteria chair to adjust to his weight. Also another special chair that can withstand his weight in the office. Also there were one wide german expat guy in the head office who have broken the armrest in several chairs in the meeting room, because he is so wide that he sort of have to squeeze himself to fit in the chair and put stress on the armrest. Sooo…..

  5. I get that some folk might not like being called fat, overweight or obese. But what's wrong with plus size? That's already in the public lexicon.

  6. So just lose the weight, I don't understand. Not everyone had a health problem some people just have years of bad habits. If you want to "fit in" or not be judged you will have to do what others do

  7. I think the percentile in regards to weight bias increased due to shift and increase of the amount of resources/ culture of “healthy living”.

  8. This is really getting to the point of pettiness.
    First of all not wanting to have the face of a company be a fat person is totally understandable. I can not feel discriminated when not be given a job to promote bras as a 25year old man. Which if you think about it is more discriminatory, as I cannot do anything about whereas an obese woman can lose wait.
    Jokes about obese people are common place as is with anything out of the norm, there is nothing more to dramatize and nothing less. The amount of dramatization in this video about something so subtle is becoming laughable (and I am not saying it is the right thing to do, to laugh at others).
    It is ridiculous to want something you willing threw out of the window and demand others to align their views and actions towards your insanity.

  9. People of size, as in big feet? Tall? Hmm… vagueness doesn't really help and means that ambiguity is a good thing in our language. John has a life threatening illness, so it's correct to say "John is under the weather"? I don't think so. Loss of language precision means more difficult less efficient diagnosis. Be practical.

  10. This is terrible! For the majority, being over weight is a YOU problem and you need to do something about it? Stop trying to pass fat people (I’m fat myself) off as an non workable issue. Eat better, move more and it literally disappears. I’m doing it, walking more and eating better, and the weight is gong.

  11. U R fat because u eat more than u should
    Eat less and walk more.
    There r people with actual problems and get discriminated for just being born. U just cant stop eating.
    The correct term is FAT PEOPLE because that's what u r.

  12. They want to compare being FAT with Racism and Homophobia. R they serious😂 like really? How woke do u have to b to start thinking like this.

    If u eat like a cow funny enough u become one. just a simple fact people just dont want to accept it😂😂

  13. These cupcakes man. When I was 24, I was living alone with 100k in debt and not a penny in the bank. So I busted my ass, worked 2 jobs, and proved that I was better than my peers. Now I'm in a union job making 100k with full benefits and a pension and happily married with numerous investments. If I was 500 lbs, you better damn well believe I'd be 180 by now. GTFO out of here these damn soft cupcakes.

  14. Playing devil's advocate: if it cost more for a company to employ a large weight person than wouldn't that keep the company from wanting to hire a high weight person?

  15. What a joke. We aren’t talking about people with Thyroid problems or issues that are uncontrollable. We are talking about people who eat too much and eat unhealthy and don’t exercise. The amount of people who do all three and are still overweight is almost negligible. Are we going to pretend that obese people have the same amount of energy as healthy people or aren’t a greater risk to employers for health care reasons. We are going to pay the price for encouraging this behavior when their health problems arise as they get older.

  16. With the number of people STARVING in North America alone, I hope the gluteus obese are skinned alive for their sins.

  17. The problem with obesity is the food we eat in America, I came to the US weighting 120 pounds and within a few years I went up to 230 pounds

  18. This is a good point they made about overweight people usually having a coinciding mental disorder going on. We really don't know anyone else's life or mind so I try not to judge other people. We shouldn't ignore this issue of obesity though, I think if the mental issue is addressed it would help the person lose weight as well. If you can address the cause, you can address the symptoms.

  19. Being a little curvy or thick is okay and healthy being obese is not and that's not something society needs to accept.

  20. Nothing surprising really, pay and hireability are very much correlated to attractiveness. Especially when dealing with clients you are somply bringing more value to a company simply because humans like to buy more stuff from attractive individuals. But with some charisma and social skills you can easily compensate for this disadvantage.

  21. I think people of size sounds silly. But I don't understand the complaints about high weight or high weight individuals? It literally is the exact same as saying overweight (high vs over) and they explained why things like obese were not preferable.

  22. So we live in a society that does not/will not see truth as truth. We now have to change MEDICAL terminology so feelings don't get hurt. So everyone needs to walk around with blinders and cannot make any judgement about anything…THAT will be the job of the government and the elites that are in it (usually not "high weight" individuals.

  23. It would be cool if CNBC actually read the paper on implicit bias. It actually has nothing to do with bias, it has more to do with fast twitch pattern recognition. The tests are done by having a test subject press a it b on a keyboard, if you press the a key a lot your brain will optimize pressing the a key.

    CNBC dies clue you into why they are pushing bad science. They are talking to activists not scientists.

  24. Saying “person of size” is ridiculous. They’re not an ethnicity. Anyone can go from being fat to skinny and anyone can go from being skinny to fat.

    “Plus-sized” is fine, “husky” is also fine, but “person of size”???? Come on

  25. I was morbidly obese for most of my life. over the last 4 years I lost my excess weight and I'm now in a healthy normal weight. I can tell you when I was fat I always felt as if it was a challenge in social situations and work situations. After loosing the weight I feel more accepted at work. I'm not sure if its because I'm more accepted because I'm not fat, or if its because I now have more energy and can now run circles around my co-workers. I can tell you then I meet new people at my job, I feel like I'm accepted more quickly. I think like with most things in life its a combination of issues. I think being fatigued all the time from packing the weight around did affect my performance at work. Being discriminated for being fat is a thing. But loosing weight is the best way to combat it.

  26. Let us face it . Fat people prefer thin people too.
    Thin is beautiful . Fat is ugly .
    It is who we are.
    Come on.
    It is not a real discrimination .

    But politics wise : this impacts the Republicans more as their voters are significantly fatter . Look at Fat Trump 😆😆

  27. This is why standardized tests are so important. The ACT/SAT/LSAT/GMAT/MCAT/GRE doesn’t discriminate based on your weight, race, gender, sexuality, or socio-economic status. You either know the material or you don’t.

  28. Fat people are more expensive. They eat more, abuse the air conditioning. take up more seats on public transport and airlines. and im sure it also affects their car mileage. why the surprised reaction?

  29. Lol 😀 now this sounds even more crazy than some other concepts in western SJW ´trigger´ society. Big surprise – life is unfair. Deal with it, ffs. Fat people have more chance to correct their situation than, for example, ugly people. But you can just trigger and do nothing, why not.

  30. Race is not a choice. Gender preferences might not be a choice. Weight however……is mostly a lifestyle choice. We shouldn't fat shame but we shouldn't encourage it either.

  31. Everyone is a "person of size." It's just some are medium and others are extra large. Since two-thirds of the adult population is overweight or obese, it would seem the scales would be tipped in their favor. Obese people do, to an extent, adversely effect the lives of those who aren't overweight: They require more fuel to be transported, they take up more space which comes into play when space is tight, and they tend to have more health issues. A physical therapist I know is thinking of retiring early because she doesn't want to be injured while trying to lift an obese person. I know the reasons behind the obesity epidemic are varied and complicated but one of those reasons is simple: Lack of personal responsibility.

  32. Obese and overweight people can ask to be called whatever the hell they want. It doesn’t distract from the very real fact that they will face horrific long term health problems for their entire lives. So sure, if you want to, instead of dealing with your weight, change how people call you then be my guest. It just won’t be my fault when you die early because of a stroke or heart attack.

  33. Unsubscribed to CNBC. You have chosen to reject science in favor of craziness. This type of video damages the brand's credibility. For shame

  34. I am fat and i don't like this video. Because i used to weight 300 pounds and lost 120 and now i am back up to 250. So i have been normal and fat i know the sacrifices and the work i have to put in to be healthy. And i know how lazy i am when i am fat. Just like the ancient Greeks said "when the mind is strong the body is strong and vice versa". They think we are lazy because most of us are. If you have a health problem ok you are excused but if you just eat like me then you know we can do better. Just accept who you are and try to become a better version of yourself because its unhealthy and we know that. You will never see a fat 100 years old person. Go ahead CNBC include everyone in the PC insanity you are promoting. People know the truth thought. People of size? Jesus Christ i would rather go back to middle school and get called fat all day.

  35. I hate how this report treats high weight as if its something outside of their control. You can't change your race, you CAN lose weight!

  36. @9:45 says over eating binge eating..inducing stress in your body, down the line etc etc….BRO OBESITY is going to cause issues over time, it's a real thing. No way to cover it up, stand up to it and Take care of your health. Period.

  37. Did any of these alleged scientists stop to think maybe OVER WEIGHT people are "discriminated" against at a higher rate because 1. There are statistically significantly more OVER WEIGHT people in developed nations than ever before? 2. Human evolution, and therein the instincts which have accompanied our species' survival, naturally rejects people with an unhealthy weight because they show either a medical issue which shouldn't be perpetuated in later generations (natural selection) or that from albeit archaic instinct that a larger person would need to consume more food ultimately resulting in less food for the others. Or 3. That OVER WEIGHT people do show negative attributes to a potential employer. If you have two individuals with the exact same qualifications, one of which comes in fit and energetic and the other OVER WEIGHT that could signify a multitude of things such as impulse control, lack of structure, lack of ambition or initiative. Mind you, I am not, I REPEAT, I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THE MINUSCULE PERCENTAGE OF THE OVERWEIGHT POPULATION SUFFERING FROM A PITUITARY DISORDER. I am referencing the unfortunate and exponential increase in unhealthy people across all developed nations who demand humanity stop being human??

  38. Of course there's substantial support for laws protecting fat people because America is a fat ass country. Why should a company accommodate an individual because of their bad habits? That's like forcing companies to provide oxygen tanks for people who smoke, lol. Ridiculous.

  39. I think it's about confidence. Fat guys are more confident than fat girls and you have to be very confident to think you deserve to get to and stay at the top.

  40. They are perceived as lacking decipline, being less smart, and overall unhealthy and signs of some failure because that's exactly what they are.

  41. Didn’t MNBC do a video on how sugar is in everything we eat and food made in the US has caused Obesity epidemic?

  42. Sorry, but taking on an overweight person for a company can lead to it costing more for insurance and they will be at risk of developing more health issues further down the track. We need to stop normalizing being overweight and call it for what it is. I have noticed a big change in the way people act now. As people get fatter it becomes the normal thing. So being skinny is now classed as body shaming to some of these people. Yes being a healthy weight is now bad because you do not fit in with the fat society.
    Just look into the rise of cost in healthcare due to people becoming so overweight. Diabetes, Heart problems etc the list is huge and it is costing everyone.

    Why can people not take responsibility for their own actions, and instead blame it on everyone else and food companies for what THEY EAT. No one is forcing you to eat those 2 big macs and Large coke. Eating in moderation is the key and we need to start teaching people this.

  43. This is nonsense news , I live outside the US where people aren't making excuses for obesity they are working to reduce it everyday because they know its deadly.

  44. The comment section is really exposing how it is to be a fat person. You have no idea of someone’s health just by looking at them. Over eating and “laziness” are not the only reasons people gain weight. Actual science and not just health magazines published to promote products show that healthy eating and exercise regardless if you lose weight or not is better than trying to loose a large amount of weight you will almost certainly gain back. Lastly, some of y’all are just mean spirited bullies. I hope you keep this energy for your fat elders. I hope being thin isn’t the only thing you have going for you

  45. Male or female, if a CEO of a company is obese, I have a hard time trusting them. If They can’t run their personal life with structure, why would they be able to run a company. A healthy life style takes discipline, and personal responsibility, those are key qualities for leadership.

  46. This channel is just showing its true colors, left wing Social Justice Warriors that runs this channel want us to believe OBESITY is a disease and they are just victims, when clearly is a disorder of people who don't want or dont know how: to control what, how and when they EAT

  47. Discrimination should be about only things you can't control. Changing your weight is largely on you if you feel discriminated by it.

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