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Why Being Overweight Could Earn You a Lower Salary


Many forms of discrimination persist in the workplace, but a new study highlights a prejudice that most people wouldn’t even think about: obesity bias.

In a new study in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers gave participants a series of résumés with small photos of applicants attached, both before and after weight-loss surgery. The researchers discovered that criteria like starting salary, leadership potential and the selection of the candidate for the job were all negatively affected for women who were considered obese.

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The study also shows that people who were more confident with their own overall physical attributes responded more negatively to those who were overweight.

“The higher participants rated their own physical attractiveness and the importance of physical appearance, the greater the prejudice and discrimination,” said psychologist and lead researcher Kerry O’Brien. “One interpretation of this finding might be that we feel better about our own bodies if we compare ourselves and discriminate against ‘fat’ people, but we need to test this experimentally.”

Weight discrimination in the workplace is often largely ignored, but it’s a serious issue and one that’s been in the news recently after a Texas hospital said it would require new employees to have a body mass index of less than 35. (That’s about 245 lb. for a man of 5 ft. 10 in., and 195 lb. for a 5-ft. 2-in. woman.)

According to the Texas Tribune, the Citizens Medical Center in Victoria, Texas, instituted a new policy requiring that an employee’s physique “should fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a health care professional.”

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