Yale University determined in a recent study that incidences of weight discrimination rivals race discrimination (the top charge filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year), and that women are twice as likely to be discriminated against as are men, and several such claims have been successfully pursued in court. Although federal employment laws and state laws, save Michigan, do not explicitly prohibit weight discrimination, there are however circumstances wherein discriminating according to weight falls under the coverage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Personnel Legal Alert, 2008). The following are among the circumstances wherein discrimination claims may result based on obesity as a protected characteristic under this Act:
In the case of Dr. Soysa, we are not given any information about the possible conditions attendant to her obesity, but for the purpose of avoiding litigation, it would be safer to assume that diabetes, heart disease or hypertension may be present. In this case, the Hospital, as employer, may not use her obesity as reason for forgoing awarding her the promotion.
There are two pieces of legislation that have to do with discriminating according to age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) applies to employees 40 years of age or older, working for employers of 20 or more employees (EEOC, 2008). The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. The Act applies to all ages (DOL, 2010). The ADEA is clearly not applicable here because Dr. Soysa is not being discriminated because she is too old (40 or above), but because she was supposedly “too young”. And unless the hospital falls under “programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance”, not