Discriminating against employees on the basis of their weight, otherwise known as fattism, ought to be outlawed, according to a UK judge.
Philip Rostant, an employment lawyer, argues that one of the ways to combat fattism in the workplace is through legislation. In particular, Rostant thinks employees ought to be able to sue their colleagues for rude remarks pertaining to their weight.
In a paper co-authored by Tamara Hervey, professor of law at The University of Sheffield, the researchers claim: “People of non-ideal weight (overweight or severely underweight) are subjected to discrimination, in the workplace and elsewhere, based on attitudinal assumptions and negative inferences from their membership of a group, such as that they are insufficiently self-motivated to make good employees.”
The researchers found that obese people have a harder time getting a job, are paid less than their slimmer co-workers and are most likely to lose their job once hired.
A new law could mean mocking an individual’s weight or refusing to hire someone because of their size would bring similar penalties as discriminating against ethnic minorities and gay people, the Daily Mail reported.
The paper noted that discrimination of people on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and disability were outlawed due to the Equality Act of 2010. Nevertheless, fat people are only protected if they can demonstrate they are disabled.
A person is considered obese if they have a body mass index greater than 30. In 1993, approximately 14 percent of adults were obese. Now, an estimated 25 percent of adults are obese.
The academics’ paper reads, “‘Being overweight, or even obese, is not in itself a prohibited ground of discrimination in UK law, or in the law of the European Union… This situation leaves a gap in the law which is remediable only by legislative reform.”
In 2014, in the case of Karsten Kaltoft vs Billund Kommune, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) deemed that if the weight of an employee, “hinders the full and effective participation in professional life on an equal basis with other workers… obesity can fall within the ‘concept’ of disability.”
At the time of the ruling, legal authorities cautioned that the verdict could have major consequences for employers. Regardless, Rostant and Hervey pressed that employment laws at the time needed to be stronger to help fight against discrimination in the workplace.
“The Equality Act 2010 offers only a very tenuous route for protection, because the Act is based largely on a ‘medical model’ of disability,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “This situation leaves a gap in the law, which is remediable only by legislative reform.”
Dr Sarah Jackson, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London (UCL), told sources that eliminating obesity from the list of protected traits, “might send the message to people that weight discrimination is socially acceptable.”
In a different study consisting of around 5,000 participants, Jackson and her colleague Jane Wardle, former director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre at UCL, found that fat discrimination was on the rise in the workplace, and that weight-related insults decreased the quality of life of fat people.
“Our results indicate that discriminatory experiences contribute to poorer psychological wellbeing in individuals with obesity, but there are currently no laws prohibiting weight discrimination,” noted Jackson.
“Everyone, including doctors, should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight, and offer support and, where appropriate, treatment,” Ward added.
Watch what you eat and make sure to eat clean food; avoid this problem all together.