Weight and discrimination: Weight is not protected by law

Is it illegal to discriminate against a worker for being overweight? The fact is, weight is not a protected factor in workplace discrimination laws, but it could lead to a discrimination lawsuit that could potentially win in some cases. Under federal discrimination laws, though, weight isn’t a protected class.

If you’ve been discriminated against because of your weight, you may not think that’s fair. That’s a topic in the courts now, and hopefully it will be addressed. Not having weight be a protected class hurts many people, and it makes it hard for you to file a claim for the harassment or discrimination you’ve faced.

What does it mean if weight isn’t a protected class? It means a boss can decide not to promote someone based on his or her weight. It also means you can be fired for it. Even though weight isn’t protected on its own for healthy individuals, there could be some ways for you to be protected under employment laws if you’re discriminated against.

First, is your weight a result of a disability? Is your weight considered to be a disability? Those who are obese can claim disability in some cases, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects those who are morbidly obese, as this is a disability in and of itself. Because morbid obesity is a disability, you can actually ask for reasonable accommodations at work.

If you’ve gained weight because you have a disability, this is also a situation where you can claim discrimination if you’re fired or lose job opportunities because of that weight gain.

Source: AOL Jobs, “Is Weight Discrimination At Work Illegal?,” Donna Ballman, accessed Feb. 26, 2016

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