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An Ugly Truth About Looking for a Job


When you’re searching for work, there are a million reasons to get discouraged. Here’s one more that you need to know about, even though it may make you upset.

If you’re overweight or obese, that lowers your chances of getting a job. A study published in the journal Nature gave this conclusion:

[Anti-fat bias] ‘negative judgement’ predicted discrimination for starting salary; and authoritarianism predicted likelihood of selecting an obese applicant and candidate ranking. Finally, physical appearance evaluation and appearance orientation predicted obesity discrimination for predicted career success and leadership potential, respectively.

© Flickr User Tony Alter

If you’ve got a few pounds to lose (or more than a few pounds), you are certainly not alone. Here in Indiana, the obesity rate is about 31% and we’re ranked #9 against the rest of the states in the country. It’s even worse when you compare Indianapolis (Marion County) to the rest of the state: we’re ranked 89th out of Indiana’s the 92 counties.

Is it fair for people to discriminate against people who aren’t as healthy? The answer is a big fat “maybe.” According to one article:

Under federal discrimination laws, weight is not a protected class, which means that, for the most part, your boss can refuse to promote you, can harass you, and can fire you due to your weight.

Of course, being overweight does affect job performance. I could cite some studies, but obviously people who are overweight are sick more often. They don’t move as quickly, which is essential for many positions. They live shorter lives and have higher insurance costs in the long run.

On the other hand, the American Medical Association has declared “morbid obesity” as a disease. And in turn, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled in a couple of cases that this disease is disability and therefore protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

So what should you do if you need to drop a few pounds and you want to get a job?

As your doctor would say: if you can lose weight, you probably should lose weight. And if you do, you probably will increase your chances of finding work.

In the meantime, keep looking. And as always, best of luck.

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.


Tue, August 4 2015 » Career Planning and Goal Setting, Corporate Culture

9 Responses

  1. tunedincoaching August 4 2015 @ 2:11 pm

    The deep root of the problem is more than losing the weight. there are many factors involved. We see public figures (Chris Christie) rise to the top and take extraordinary measures to lose weight. Weight management is something every sedentary person faces. However, extra weight, disease, unhealthy habits are only the effect, not the cause. The cause; feeling unloved, alone, "not enough", oh and, unemployed.

  2. robbyslaughter August 5 2015 @ 7:27 pm

    Thanks for the comments!

    Yes, I think that the line between cause and effect can be a bit blurry when it comes to weight and success. But certainly there is at least a correlation between a healthy body and a healthy outlook!

  3. Tom August 5 2015 @ 12:11 am

    A gross oversimplification in many respects. I’ve seen the complete opposite in many instances.

  4. robbyslaughter August 5 2015 @ 7:29 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts, Tom!

    I've certainly seen the opposite too in many individual cases. But anecdotes are not enough to change my perspective.

    You can't always tell that someone is healthy by looking at them, but we do have perceptions. Those perspective on others inform our choices in business and life.

  5. Aric August 5 2015 @ 2:39 pm

    Unfortunately, without knowing which industries were targeted, which parts of the population were sampled, or some sort of analysis from the above mentioned study. Was the sample rate more women than men? What was their socio economic background. Is race a factor in the study. All of this needs to be laid out when discussing the merits any study.

    I find the argument presented in the post to be more of a perpetuation of fat shaming in our culture as opposed to anything with real insight.

    This post is more click bait driven than posessing any real substance. And as a fat person (who has never had a problem finding or maintaining a job ), I find the oversimplification a bit insulting. "Hey, are you overweight? You should try to lose some of it if you want a job." Really? I did not know that.

    The post isn't insightful, nor does it present any semblance of being a good analysis of the study. It is just clickbait to promote a fat shaming culture.

  6. robbyslaughter August 5 2015 @ 7:41 pm

    Hi Aric! Thanks for your comments.

    This is a scientific article in a peer-reviewed journal. We unfortunately cannot share the full text due to licensing restrictions, but I can tell you that the analysis is comprehensive and statistically significant. It is also only one example of a number of studies that have been done which have similar findings.

    I'm happy to hear that your personal experience has been contrary to the study. However, the purpose of this kind of analysis is in part to determine with confidence whether or not anecdotal experiences are representative of a larger trend. And while you may not have had trouble finding or maintaining "a" job in the past, is it possible you would have had a different career path if your weight was different in either direction?

    There is no shame in being overweight. But, there is prejudice about weight in our culture. It is always wise to consider these biases when making any choices about our lives.

    Thanks again for the discussion!

  7. Aric August 6 2015 @ 6:34 pm

    You can still synthesize the study as you would do any lit review. The problem with using studies as evidence of your thesis/argument without showing some sort of analysis from that study is that you run into the "we have these golden plates, but you can't see them, so you'll just have to believe us." trap. I understand that this can be a laborious task, but from an academic standpoint it's hard to argue the relevance of an artifact without some base knowledge of that artifact.

    This is true for blog posts and articles, as far as I'm concerned. Too many pieces try to be thought leadership pieces with only giving a high level overview and lacking supporting evidence. As a rhetorician and academic, this drives me nuts, because I think there are deeper, salient points that can be expanded on to really drive home the discussion.

  8. robbyslaughter September 10 2015 @ 4:55 pm

    You can see the study. You can go to the journal and look it up yourself. We read the study and summarized it's findings. We even quoted directly from the study.

    The reader is not being asked to take this on faith. The evidence is available for your review. We might not have conducted an analysis of the source material in the level of detail you would prefer, but because it's out there and we've explained how to find it, we are not hiding it from you.

  9. scloho August 5 2015 @ 8:08 pm

    Me and my few extra pounds should be glad to already have a job then.

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