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Saturday, Dec 10, 2016

Business

Fat people earn less and have a harder time finding work

BBC Capital | Ronald Alsop | Saturday, Dec 10, 2016

It's especially true if you're a woman - and there's almost nothing you can do about it.

After being laid off from her job at cable television provider Comcast, Shavonne Patrice Owens thought she had finally landed a new job last year at a child care centre in Huntsville, Alabama.

A friend had recommended her and when she went for an interview, she was introduced to the children and staff.

She followed up with multiple phone calls but they were never returned.

"I had worked in a day care centre before and was qualified for the position, but they told my friend they weren't going to hire me because I was too big," says Owens, who is nearly six feet tall and weighs more than 500lb (227kg).

During the interview, she had reassured them that despite her weight, she could easily sit on the floor and interact with the children.

Even when they're able to do the job competently, obese people routinely face discrimination in the workplace.

While discrimination against employees because of their sex, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or disabilities is illegal in a growing number of countries, including the UK, many businesses still consider it perfectly acceptable to refuse to hire - or to fire - obese individuals.

"Obesity is absolutely one of the few stigmatised categories where we still do think it's OK to discriminate," says Enrica Ruggs, assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

"It's especially interesting that it's still so pervasive a stigma with so many people in the United States who are overweight."

Drawing the line

Obesity is generally defined as a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, while morbid obesity is a BMI of more than 40. (BMI can be calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters.

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