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Is this fat discrimination?

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Old 02-02-2012, 01:58 PM   #1
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Default Is this fat discrimination?

Thanks everyone. I decided to repost because I realized my poorly worded question came off incorrectly.

For those who replied, this was not a legal question. My question was more of a moral one....(And yes, this question is real) . As I travel through my weight loss journey I have begun to confront my attitude towards weight...mine and others. And I mean this on both sides of the spectrum. I have learned that in my mind I thought thinner people were "better" and lived "happier lives." As a thinking adult, I know it isn't true but subconsciously I realized that it was part of my mental script.

My poorly worded question was/is...is there something wrong with my thinking on a moral level? For heavier women....like myself...I was surprised that I even began to think of weight in the scenario posted. The truth is that we've never really talked about weight...mine or hers. We just enjoy each other's company.

If she applies, I would DEFINITELY give her full opportunity and if she's the best interview...the job is hers and I'll make every accommodation that we need to. I just know her and having to even ask ME for an accomodation would crush her. For the first time, she would have to talk to me about her weight and ask ME for help. I think this is what we've enjoyed....we never dwell on weight.

I also know that she doesn't want to be in a wheelchair or any other mobile device. She would resent me even asking about it. She's not ready to face the fact that she needs one and would be humiliated if I ever admitted to buying something to "accomodate" her...I know this as a friend. It would crush her...even though I know that's what she needs to do the job.

I also began to ask myself have I been holding myself back because I think the same thing about ME. I think I'm having an epiphany moment....I think the same thing I thought about for my friend is the same reason I haven't applied for jobs. Because I would be embarrassed about how my weight might be perceived or an obstacle.

I just wanted to know if even thinking about these things is morally wrong. Sometimes feelings get in the way of clarity. I needed a little clarity...but I think I've found my answer.
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Old 02-02-2012, 02:04 PM   #2
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Please check with HR. This gets into pretty tricky legal ground, IMO, where I'd be uncomfortable commenting.

There's a difference between whether people think it is fair or unfair, and whether it meets the legal definition of discrimination based on a disability. The ADA is typically presumed to cover those who are morbidly obese, and she would fall into that category, so from a legal perspective, it's risky to not hire her based solely on the fact that she would require accommodations, but again, this is a legal/HR decision.

You not telling her about the job is not actionable, of course, but if she found out about the position and applied, these sort of legal ramifications would come into play, and you need to be very careful.
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Old 02-02-2012, 02:05 PM   #3
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She probably qualifies as disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act. She should probably be using a motorized chair or scooter to get around. Would it solve the problem if she had a device like this and was able to do the rest of the job? The company would not have to purchase the device--but she might qualify for it on her own through her doctor. I assume your company has other handicapped accommodations, such as handicapped bathrooms and entrances and ramps and elevators (if applicable).

And you know what? I'm wondering if your post is even for real, because someone 5 feet tall weighing 530 pounds is probably bed bound...

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Old 02-02-2012, 02:15 PM   #4
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I agree, check with HR or a lawyer specializing in discrimination/employment law if she applies for the job. Very dodgy territory.
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Old 02-02-2012, 02:32 PM   #5
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It doesn't sound at all like you really think "she is great." It sounds like you're looking for reasons and permission not to hire her, so that you won't feel bad.

You're not legally obligated to offer jobs to friends, or to inform them when a position opens, even if they're qualified for the job. If she applies for the job (whether or not it was because you told her about the job), then you need to consider her on her merits - and her ability to do the job, not on the "difficulty" she experiences doing it.

If you don't want to hire her, don't mention the job to her (but don't mention it to mutual friends either if you value the friendship).

As to whether or not you should consider her for the job, that's not as easily answered.

I also wonder whether your assessment of her weigh and ability t is accurate. People are notoriously poor at judging weight and ability in other people. It's one of the reasons discrimination laws are put in place.

In many states, it's perfectly legal to discriminate against people on the basis of weight, but since this is a friend, whom you at least believe you "think is great" I suspect this isn't really a legal question, but a moral one.

And the morality of the situation is something no one can answer for you.
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Old 02-02-2012, 02:40 PM   #6
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Default re:

If you have an HR, you absolutely should go to them first before going any further and talk about what you just asked here.

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Old 02-02-2012, 03:01 PM   #7
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This may not apply, but based on past experiences with referring friends
it has not worked out & I felt responsible for them in the end & was always
caught in the middle. I now make it a policy not to recommend family/friends
where I work.
Good luck.
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Old 02-02-2012, 03:13 PM   #8
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If she is likely to find out there was an opening and you didnt tell her, will it endanger your friendship? Are you in on the hiring decision? If not, let others decide if she is qualified. If you are, tell her you have to be honest in your evaluation of her ability to perform in all aspects of the job Will she want to use you as a reference? If so, limit your letter or comments to her personality and ability to do the actual work. Talk to HR. Talk to your supervisor. Not easy whatever you do.

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Old 02-02-2012, 03:19 PM   #9
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See OP please.
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Old 02-02-2012, 03:23 PM   #10
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I have to agree with bandit2. The morality of the issue may not ultimately matter as much as the fact that referring friends often does not work out. It has never worked out for me. I have had several friends hired at my company and all of them have been let go. It was uncomfortable and I would not do it again.

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Old 02-02-2012, 03:41 PM   #11
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I think that if she is capable of doing the job with reasonable accommodations and she's qualified and you don't have a more qualified applicant than you should hire her.

If she is NOT capable of doing the job with reasonable accommodations then you probably should not hire her.

Frankly I think that in most cases obesity should not be protected as a disability (I allow for medical causes of obesity but not for overeating) and I believe employers have every right to consider factors such as "Will I have to buy this person two plane tickets every time I send him for training?" "Is this person going to have chronic health issues that will leave us shorthanded?" Etc. I know that sounds bad but the bottom line is that most people who are overweight are there because they eat too much and move too little and why should a lifestyle choice that has resulted in poor health be protected at the detriment of employers?

For what it's worth I have been a hiring manager and have hired obese and morbidly obese individuals. Every situation is different, and I never opted not to hire a person because they were obese. But I do think it shouldn't be illegal or immoral for someone to consider it as part of the overall hiring decision, especially in small businesses where accommodations might create an undue hardship on the company or the other employees.
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Old 02-02-2012, 04:01 PM   #12
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Free1- I think it's perfectly normal to wonder about these things. First and foremost we are human. It's part of human nature. Good luck in whatever happens.

Lin
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Old 02-02-2012, 04:15 PM   #13
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In the past, I worked in a large office for a printing company, where one of my co-workers was close to 500 lbs. She did walk upright but when she walked the floor beneath us literally resonated with her every step. [On a side note, believe or not, she actually became pregnant when she lost 40 lbs (briefly) on one of those quick weight loss diets. She did have complications with her C-section because the staples ripped as a result of the weight of the excess skin so she had to return and have the incision re-stapled]. I do not recall there being any other medical reason that she didn't show up for work. She was well-liked, as far as I know she performed her job well and we even had a baby shower for her. She did need to quit her job because her husband wanted to move closer to his family in another state. I do remember that she was quite angry and disappointed to leave all of us. She was missed.
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Old 02-02-2012, 04:49 PM   #14
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See, because you went back and edited your original post, no one who comes to this thread now will know what the original questions/scenarios were. I think it's better to add a new Reply instead of editing, but of course it's up to you.

As far as moral issues--I think it's a simple enough question. I think what you're concerned about is bias and discrimination, not morality. If you don't think she could do the job, for whatever reason, don't mention the job to her. Your original post was about whether you should tell her about the job, I think. If you've already gone ahead and told her, then the next move is hers. It's not as though she's already applied and you're the hiring manager. And if she applies, then not hiring her really could become a legal question.

Jay
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Old 02-02-2012, 05:49 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JayEll View Post
See, because you went back and edited your original post, no one who comes to this thread now will know what the original questions/scenarios were. I think it's better to add a new Reply instead of editing, but of course it's up to you.

As far as moral issues--I think it's a simple enough question. I think what you're concerned about is bias and discrimination, not morality. If you don't think she could do the job, for whatever reason, don't mention the job to her. Your original post was about whether you should tell her about the job, I think. If you've already gone ahead and told her, then the next move is hers. It's not as though she's already applied and you're the hiring manager. And if she applies, then not hiring her really could become a legal question.

Jay
I agree. I have absolutely no idea what's going on because I didn't read the thread before the edit.
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