Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Weight and Work: Can Employers Impose Weight Restrictions?


Management Department


Seidman College of Business

Date Range





Approximately 129.6 million (64.5 percent) Americans are considered overweight and 61.3 million adult Americans (30.5 percent) are classified as obese and recent research suggests that obesity rates are increasing. The increase in obesity rates among young people is also significant and has tripled in the last 25 years. This is critical for several reasons one being that it is a good indicator of who will be overweight and/or obese in adulthood. This also means that many working adults are overweight and even classified as being obese. Employees are subjected to many forms of monitoring in the workplace, and many question employers who place additional restrictions or discriminate against individuals whose weight is viewed by the employer as being above a normal weight level. Should employers be concerned about the weight of their individual employees and can an employer tell an employee how much to weigh? Can preferential treatment be given to individuals who meet certain weight restrictions? Research suggests that the majority of obese individuals report being discriminated against regarding employment. Once employed, there are weight-related issues tied to appearance, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and workers compensation insurance. Few laws focus on the issue of weight and obesity in the workplace. In fact, there are no federal laws prohibiting weight discrimination and the state of Michigan is the only state that prohibits weight discrimination in employment in its civil rights act. This paper will focus on employment-related problems associated with employees weight and obesity in the workplace. An overview of obesity and its effect on both employers and employees will be discussed and the following areas will be emphasized: employment-related medical and performance issues associated with obesity, employment discrimination problems encountered by overweight and obese individuals, the complicated legal status of obesity, and, finally, the effectiveness of obesity and weight management programs.

Conference Name

Society of Business, Industry, and Economics Annual Academic Conference

Conference Location

Destin, FL

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