Overweight workers may face harassment and discrimination at work

The average American is overweight, but you would have no idea of that fact based on the media. The representation of America's population in movies and on television skew disproportionately toward attractive and fit younger adults. That appearance bias trickles down into every other section of our culture and lives.

As a result, overweight Americans face a stigma that most other adults have never experienced. That stigma can result in bullying or discrimination in the workplace. No one should have to endure mistreatment by their boss or co-workers because of their physical fitness or weight. Unless either of those factors is critical to the performance of the job, it should not affect decisions about hiring, firing or promotions.

Other workers or even managers may mistreat overweight workers

Overweight and obese employees may find themselves the focus of cruel jokes made around their office or workplace by co-workers. In some cases, they may struggle to build positive relationships with co-workers, who judge them for shallow reasons. That sort of treatment can impact someone's confidence and therefore their work performance and mental health.

Other times, internalized biases related to appearances and size can impact how your boss views you and your work performance. A job performance that would be satisfactory or even praiseworthy from someone else may receive little attention or criticism when connected to an overweight employee. Bosses may even go so far as to make overt suggestions that overweight workers should make efforts to lose weight.

Many people who struggle with being overweight or obese have underlying medical conditions that contribute to their weight gain. Whether that condition is a mental health condition, such as depression, or a physical condition, such as a thyroid disorder, employers should not allow mistreatment, harassment or discrimination against overweight employees because of a medical condition.

You have the right to stand up against bullies, even if they are your employer

In some cases, the abuse overweight workers face is so extreme that they wind up leaving their place of employment. Other times, employers may choose to terminate a worker's position without any performance-related reason.

Whether being overweight has impacted your ability to move upward in your career or has resulted in harassment around your workplace, you don't need to accept that kind of treatment. Holding a company responsible for the toxic cultures they create often involves taking legal action against them. Without a financial penalty, the business may not have adequate incentive to change its practices moving forward.

Start by documenting the abuse or mistreatment you experience. Then discuss your situation with a professional, such as an attorney, who is closely familiar with Arizona and national discrimination and workplace law.

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