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Weight Discrimination: Our Position

People who are larger than average encounter discriminatory attitudes and are denied equal opportunity in many areas of their lives:

Prospective employers refuse to hire large size people, especially in jobs where employees do physical work, or jobs where employees interact with the public.

Our position: employers can insist that their public representatives be well groomed, appropriately dressed, personable, and physically capable of doing the job well. But any criterion which excludes an entire group of people--African Americans, people with disabilities, or larger-than-average people--is unacceptable.

Large people are subject to harassment about their weight by their employers, are kept in jobs beneath their abilities, and are often demoted or fired because of stated or unstated weight prejudice.

Our position: the only valid criterion for job evaluation, raises, promotions, disciplinary action, demotion, or firing is job performance. If an employer thinks an employee's size hinders their ability to do the job, it is incumbent on the employer to discuss this with the employee and make a determination, not to make a judgment about the person's ability based on their size.

Physicians and other health care professionals often advise fat patients to lose weight no matter what their medical condition, whereas a thin person with the same condition would be given medicine or other medical treatment. Hospitals and other health care facilities and equipment (such as cat scans and MRIs) are often inaccessible to large people.

Large people are systematically denied health insurance and life insurance, or they are forced to pay higher premiums than those of average weight.

Our position: a person's size does not determine their health or the healthfulness of their lifestyle.

Applicants are often turned down by educational institutions because of their size. In a famous discrimination case which went to the Supreme Court, a college made a nursing student sign a contract promising to lose weight or be expelled (the Court invalidated the contract).

Landlords, housing agencies, and real estate agents often deny larger people apartments, or show them only inferior locations, to prevent them from moving into the neighborhood.

There are many other aspects of size discrimination. The Council has consulted with a person who was denied membership in a traveling choir because of her weight, large-size couples who were turned down as adoptive parents, and a man who was asked to accept a refund on his gym membership because customers had complained that they didn't like to look at his body.

Public facilities are inaccessible to many large people because of turnstiles, narrow armchairs, narrow doors, hallways, and stairs, and small bathrooms.

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