Say ‘No’ To Weight-Based Bullying and Discrimination

Yesterday, the Canadian Obesity Network hosted the First Canadian Summit on Weight Bias and Discrimination. Judging by the tremendous media interest in this summit (which was completely sold out), it seems that this topic has struck a nerve.

In the many media interviews that were given by panelists and myself, it appears that there was a particular interest in weight-based bullying and discrimination at the workplace.

This is one of the issues addressed in a very useful policy brief published by the Rudd Centre for Food Policy and Obesity titled, “Weight Bias – a Social Justice Issue“.

With regard to obesity and employment, the document points out that compared to job applicants with the same qualifications, obese applicants are rated more negatively and are less likely to be hired.

Obese applicants are also perceived to be unfit for jobs involving face-to-face interactions.

In addition, overweight and obese applicants are viewed as having

■ poor self-discipline;
■ low supervisory potential;
■ poor personal hygiene;
■ less ambition and productivity.

Apart from not being hired because of their excess weight, obese employees are offered lower wages, are less likely to be promoted, and are often the first to be fired irrespective of their actual job performance.

Other examples of discrimination in the work setting include:

■ becoming the target of derogatory comments and jokes by employers and coworkers;
■ being fired for failure to lose weight;
■ being penalized for weight, through company benefits programs.

As blogged before, this issue is not just important because of the economic consequences but also has some very real psychological and physiological implications for the victims of such decisions and behaviours.

A detailed conference report, Council recommendations, and videos of the presentations will be posted on the website of the Canadian Obesity Network in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, I’d certainly love to hear from my readers about any weight-based discrimination that they have experienced or witnessed and any suggestions anyone may have on how best to address this issue.

Toronto, Ontario

Videos of the presentations at the Weight Bias Summit are available here