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Can I Be Fired for Being Too Fat?

Everyone knows there are certain jobs that place value on a person’s appearance. For instance, it would be tough for someone to expect to work as a fitness model if he or she is not fit. When someone is searching for a job that requires a certain lifestyle, expectations related to appearance make sense, but what about regular jobs that have nothing to do with what a person does during his or her non-working hours.

What about the majority of jobs in which your appearance shouldn’t make a bit of difference? Is it discriminatory for you to be turned down for or terminated from a job because of your weight when your weight has nothing to do with your work?

Laws protect employees and potential employees from discrimination based on certain protected classes. For instance, a person cannot be treated differently in the workplace because of his or her gender, religion, race, national origin, age, disabilities, or sexual orientation. If an employer does so, the employee has the right to take legal action and file a discrimination lawsuit.

Change is On the Way: Protecting Employees from Weight Discrimination

Though weight doesn’t fall under federal protection yet, it could be headed in that direction. Some states have instituted laws that prohibit discrimination based solely on a person’s weight (so keep in mind this could apply to someone being over or underweight).

There is also growing evidence that weight discrimination in the workplace is a problem. Many familiar with the issue consider it one of the leading causes of discrimination in the workplace.

Men and women have both been victimized for being overweight, but the problem seems to be much worse for women. This means that depending on the specific circumstances of a case, there could be evidence of gender discrimination involved.

Another factor in the debate over weight discrimination is the potential for disability discrimination. Disabilities are covered under federal protection laws, which means if a person’s weight is connected to an underlying disability diagnosed by a doctor, a lawsuit could be filed against the employer. The law requires employers accommodate otherwise qualified candidates and employees when they have disabilities, so terminating or refusing to hire an overweight individual whose weight is due to an underlying medical condition might be illegal.

Additionally, New York State’s Human Rights Law could provide protection to those discriminated against based on weight, depending on the specific circumstances. For instance, if someone were able to prove he or she is overweight due to a genetic issue or disability, protection would be offered. You can learn more about NY Human Rights Law here.

What Can You Do?

If you believe you were turned down for a job or terminated by your employer because of your appearance, the best thing you can do is contact an expert in workplace discrimination. He or she can explain your options and help you determine if discrimination was a factor. If so, you might be entitled to compensation or reinstatement into your former position with the company.

Would you like to learn more? Contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to discuss the details of your situation.

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