Opinion

Portly need not apply

It almost sounds like a bad southerner joke: Did you hear the one about the hospital that wouldn’t hire fat people? They’re worried they’d scare the old people to death.

It’s sad but true. As we reported here late last week, a hospital in Texas (where everything else is bigger) officially banned anyone with a BMI of more than 35 from even applying for a job there.

On its face, it sounds like one of those made-for-the-courtroom cases of employment discrimination in this already overly litigious society – especially when Citizens Medical Center CEO David Brown said in an interview that, “the majority of our patients are over 65, and they have expectations that cannot be ignored in terms of personal appearance."

Note to self (and all of you): When banning fat people from even trying to work at your company, you might be better off going with the higher health premium explanation rather than blaming your elderly patients. It might not get you sued quite so fast.

Keep in mind this is a company already mired in a lawsuit over Brown’s comment in an email that he felt “a sense of disgust” over “Middle Eastern-born" physicians who wanted more leadership roles, the Texas Tribune reported when it broke the story.

All of this aside, though, it’s not like it's illegal, at least in Texas. Minnesota’s the only state in the nation – along with a handful of cities – that ban obesity discrimination. So aside from an obvious lack of diplomacy about it, Citizens Medical Center is in the clear legally. But as any of you already, just because something’s legal – or at least not explicitly illegal – doesn’t mean you can’t still get sued.

In other obesity news, a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that trends of growing waistlines actually slowed down in quite a few countries over the last three years.

And while overall obesity rates remain high, in England, France, Korea and the United States, the numbers appear to have actually leveled off.

So maybe we’re headed in the right direction, even if we veer over onto the (pork) shoulder every once in a while.

About the Author
Denis Storey

Denis Storey

Denis Storey is editor for BenefitsPro.com and Benefits Selling magazine. He can be reached at dstorey@benefitspro.com.

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