Obesity and Making a Living

Ms Pat

Ms. Pat projects the opposite of approved corporate image.

Comedian Ms. Pat talks about how the local kids participate in the time-honored mischief of ringing doorbells and running away. She tells her son to stay out of it because, being so fat that his thighs rub together, he would be the one to get caught, and potentially shot, because some of the homeowners have guns. These are excellent reasons for a young person to avoid obesity, but it turns out that adult obesity can adversely affect a person’s life as well. As a professional comedian, Ms. Pat works in one of the few fields in which an obese woman can rise to the top.

But a tolerance for extra weight is not common even in the entertainment industry. Large actors and singers are unusual; a large dancer is impossible. Even at the edges of what could be considered entertainment, the job of flight attendant requires that the applicant’s weight be proportional to height.

Writing for TheAmericanGenius.com, Dawn Brotherton recalls the 2013 discrimination lawsuit against an Atlantic City hotel where casino waitresses had to submit to weigh-ins, and were suspended if they gained too much. In a way, it is surprising that the case even went to court, because, as the judge pointed out when ruling against the waitresses, they had signed a contract agreeing that they understood the weight policy.

Weight in the Workplace

Conventional employers have many reasons for wanting their workers to maintain normal weight. They believe that decreased mobility can impact job performance by reducing productivity and increasing the likelihood of occupational injuries. According to their statistics, obese employees take more sick days and generally increase healthcare costs. There are also morale issues.

But consider the morale of the borderline or overweight person. Many workplaces could easily be called “obesogenic” environments. A Harvard study found:

Worksites often provide easy access to unhealthy foods in vending machines and limited access to healthier options, such as fruits and vegetables…Work environments can also increase the risk of obesity arising from job stress and work-related fatigue, which are linked to poor diets and reduced physical activity…Shift workers and employees working longer-than-usual hours every week have a higher risk of obesity.

Employers traditionally have not been concerned with taking their share of blame for factors, like poor scheduling, that add to stress. Contemporary obesity prevention programs are more effective when they try to create what the Centers for Diesease Control and Prevention calls a “culture of health.” The best results are obtained when the workplace does not lay the whole burden on the worker.

An effective program for “Total Worker Health” might include nutrition education, access to the advice of nutritionists or other types of counselors, more healthful food options in cafeterias and vending machines, a gym with a safe place to change clothes and store belongings, and reimbursement for exercise-related expenses.

Brotherton, the journalist mentioned above, mentions the current case of Elizabeth DeLorean, who is suing Coach, Inc., the purveyor of luxury fashion accessories. After a period of harassment and humiliation, in what she felt had become a hostile work environment, DeLorean was fired from the position of store manager after more than 10 years on the job. The company maintained that she was let go based not her weight, but on overall job performance. Since the matter is in litigation, we cannot learn much more at present. As Brotherton notes:

Michigan is the only state where weight discrimination is part of the civil rights law. It ranks right up there with religion, race, and height.

For that reason, many eyes are watching for the outcome of this case, which may have widely-felt repercussions.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Source: “The Champs.” Libsyn.com, 02/20/15,” http://thechamps.libsyn.com/ms-pat
Source: “Don’t gain weight while working at Coach, you might lose your job,” TheAmericanGenius.com, 10/28/15
Source: “Toxic Food Environment – How Our Surroundings Influence What We Eat,” Harvard.edu, undated
Source: “Worksite Obesity Prevention Recommendations: Complete List,” Harvard.edu, undated
Image by Ms. Pat

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