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Body weight discrimination affects many women in the workplace

On Behalf of | May 16, 2023 | Employment Law |

There are more women in more industries now than in decades prior. Women work in fields including technology and science, in addition to areas that they have historically dominated, like nursing, education and social work. Women now fill more management positions as well, although progress in many workplaces remains slow.

In theory, both state and federal employment laws protect the rights of women to receive equal treatment and equal pay for the work that they perform. However, women often face subtle discrimination in the workplace and not-so-subtle abuse from their employers and supervisors that can affect everything from their job performance and mental health to their income.

For example, when a woman is overweight, her experience at work may be much more negative, and she may earn even less than her other female co-workers. Body weight discrimination can affect everyone, but it often tends to exacerbate sex discrimination.

Heavier people face social stigma

Society is not very accepting of larger bodies, and people may face rude commentary and passive-aggressive jokes from social acquaintances and co-workers simply because of their body shape or size. With men, the majority of the consequences tend to be social, but women experience direct financial consequences when they are overweight.

Men generally don’t report a drop in income associated with weight gain, but women do. The more a woman weighs, the less she earns. Researchers found a roughly 6% drop in income associated with a 10% increase in body weight.  That exacerbates the pre-existing wage gap between men and women, meaning that overweight women often make far less than men might in their workplace.

Someone’s weight is not indicative of their worth

Employers should not let superficial factors like weight determine how they treat and compensate their workers. Unfortunately, body weight discrimination is relatively pervasive throughout society and can affect people in many different industries.

Women who have experienced career stagnation and workplace harassment because of their weight may be in a position to fight back against their unfair reduction in earnings and what may be a hostile work environment. Recognizing body weight discrimination as an abusive subtype of sex and disability discrimination may motivate victims to seek legal guidance and fight back.