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Weight and gender still play role in workplace discrimination

Gender-based discrimination is illegal in Massachusetts, but that does not stop employers from applying seemingly subtle biases against workers. Women in particular face a considerable amount of discrimination regarding something that typically does not impact their ability to complete perform their work -- weight. A recent study found that weight-related workplace discrimination affects women far more often than their male counterparts.'

The study involved 120 different participants who were tasked with rating the suitability of individuals for one of two jobs.  Participants were told that the first job would require the worker to interact with customers, while the second would not. Researchers pointed out that all of the applicants were equally qualified for the positions before presenting the participants with the pictures to rate. Unbeknown to the participants, they were presented with both original and retouched pictures. The pictures that were retouched moderately rounded out the women's faces, although the stimulated weight gain did not push them out of a healthy BMI range.

Despite being equally qualified for both types of positions, participants continually rated the women who had been re-touched to weigh more as less hireable than when they were presented with the same photo that had not been altered. These women -- who were still within a normal range for weight -- were judged even more harshly than pictures of men who had been edited to appear distinctly overweight. The study highlighted just how early on in the employment process this type of weight bias can start.

Regardless of gender, employees in Massachusetts have the right to be treated fairly by their employers. Weight-based workplace discrimination creates unfair expectations regarding physical experience and adds additional barriers for otherwise competent workers to cross when trying to advance their careers. For those who have been wrongly prevented from acquiring or keeping gainful employment due to this and other types of discrimination, civil suits are typically effective at achieving related compensation, including lost wages.

Source:, "Another Study Shows the Discrimination Women Face in the Workplace", Sara G. Miller, Oct. 5, 2016

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