The poll asked, “Has someone's weight ever influenced your decision on whether to hire him or her?” The responses broke down this way:
Yes – 25%
Maybe unconsciously – 35%
No – 40%
The poll, conducted May 12-19, drew 552 participants.
Susan Prince, legal editor at Business & Legal Reports, which operates HR.BLR.com, commented on the results: “While federal law bars discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, age, race, or national origin, it does not expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of physical appearance, such as weight. Some workers and applicants who believe they’ve been unjustly treated for being overweight have sought protection under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but the courts have generally ruled that obesity does not meet the ADA’s definition of a disability.”
Nevertheless, Prince added, some states and municipalities have their own laws prohibiting weight discrimination, so employers need to be cognizant of them.
Prince added that there is some anecdotal evidence that employers sometimes avoid hiring overweight employees because of obesity’s negative impact on company insurance. But it is unclear from this poll if that consideration came into play in the human resource managers’ votes.
HR.BLR.com, “State HR Answers and Tools Online”, provides subscribers with plain-English analysis of the workplace laws in all 50 states. And for HR professionals who need to know what the ADA does cover, BLR offers a free download, “Managing Disabilities in the Workplace”: http://www.blr.com/product.cfm/product/82006360/funcode/WI01
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HR.BLR.com Managing Web Editor
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