Canadians Widely Support Policies and Legal Protection Agains Weight Discrimination

sharma-obesity-policy1According to a four-country survey published by Rebecca Puhl and colleagues in the Milbank Quarterly,  a representative proportion of the public in Canada, USA, Iceland and Australia, where weight-based discrimination is widely documented would support policies and legal protections against this practice.

The survey assessed public support for potential laws to prohibit weight-based discrimination, such as adding body weight to existing civil rights statutes, extending disability protections to persons with obesity, and instituting legal measures to prohibit employers from discriminating against employees because of body weight.

At least two-thirds of the participants in all 4 countries expressed support for policies that would make it illegal for employers to refuse to hire, assign lower wages, deny promotions, or terminate qualified employees because of body weight. Women and participants with higher body weight expressed more support for antidiscrimination measures.

Here is what Canadians had to say about these issues:

  • Canadians expressed more support for all the proposed laws against weight-based discrimination than did the participants in both Iceland and the United States.
  • 70% to 91% of participants in Canada, US, and Iceland supported laws that would make it illegal for employers to refuse to hire, assign lower wages, deny promotion, or terminate qualified employees because of their body weight. Support was highest for laws that would prohibit employers from assigning lower wages to qualified employees because of their weight.
  • The majority of participants (both adult and student samples) in the United States, Canada, and Australia agreed that their government should have specific laws prohibiting weight discrimination, and they supported laws that would include body weight in existing human rights statutes.
  • 71% to 87% of adults and 69% to 93% of students in all the countries in our study were in favour of passing laws to address bullying in the workplace.
  • laws that would consider obesity as a disability or would provide people with obesity the same legal protections afforded to individuals with physical disabilities received the least support of all laws
  • women were significantly more likely to support antidiscrimination measures than men were
  • support for laws across countries was higher among participants in the obese BMI range than among thinner individuals
  • Beliefs that obesity is caused by factors outside of personal control, such as physiological and environmental factors, were particularly related to increased support for laws
  • In Canada only, beliefs in psychological causes of obesity were positively associated with greater support for laws

Certainly enough evidence if law makers want to begin taking this issue seriously.

Edmonton, AB