There is no question that obesity has become a significant problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of American adults are obese.
Some laws protect certain classes from discrimination, but is being overweight one of those classes? Can you be fired for being overweight?
In California,employers can’t discriminate against anyone based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, and military or veteran status.
Based on those categories, if obesity is considered a medical condition, it should be protected from workplace discrimination. However, experts disagree if obesity is a disease. Some organizations, such as the AMA and WHO, believe it is, but there is not a unanimous consensus among the medical community.
Therefore, in the U.S.,no federal laws protect obese workers from discrimination. Still, California does prohibit employers from firing workers based on their physical appearance unless it affects their job performance.
Obese workers who believe they have been discriminated against may have a difficult time proving their case in court. Employers may be able to justify their practices if they can show that they are job-related and necessary for business purposes.
Resources are available if you feel you were fired because of your weight. Filing a claim can be difficult, but it’s important to stand up for yourself and fight against discrimination.