A Weighty Matter – job discrimination suffered by overweight persons

A Weighty Matter – job discrimination suffered by overweight persons – Brief Article

Dana Asher

Three job candidates with equal qualifications interview for the same position: an AfricanAmerican man, an average-size woman and a woman in a size-28 suit. Who gets the job?

“The overweight person is out of the running,” says Mark Roehling, Ph.D., assistant professor of management at Western Michigan University’s Haworth College of Business. Roehling’s research and interviews show that weight discrimination is much more prevalent in the hiring process than bias against race or gender. Prejudice against overweight women is the most severe: One national survey indicates that white women who are just “slightly chunky” earn 6% less than thinner women, while white men who are a little heavy receive a 7% higher salary than slimmer men.

Size is maligned in other ways, too. Some managers become critical of heavy employees after receiving pressure from bosses or customers, says Roehling; others discriminate because of perceived costs, such as higher medical insurance costs. While many bosses are also prejudiced against minorities, overweight people are blamed for their condition. “You can’t help if you’re born female or African-American,” says Roehling. “But there’s a belief that overweight people are at fault” for their size. “It seems,” he says, “to be the acceptable bias.”

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