Let’s be honest, obesity is an epidemic. According to California Health and Human Services, approximately three in five adults are overweight or obese in California. Although recent trends suggest leveling growth rates of obesity in the state, overall obesity rates remain extremely high.
Not surprisingly, some bosses view their obese employees as limited, incapable, slow, unhealthy, or expendable. More likely than not, an obese employee is granted fewer mistakes, fewer promotions, and fewer raises than a skinny employee. It is not uncommon for someone to get fired explicitly because of their weight.
There is no law in California that states that an employer cannot fire or discriminate against an employee because of their weight. However, there is law in CA that states than an employer cannot discriminate against an employee because of a disability. That begs the question — is obesity a disability?
Were you fired because you’re ugly? Did your boss hire a beautiful replacement? Shouldn’t you be able to sue for that? The NYT makes the case:
[W]hy not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?
The article has an interesting take on why ‘ugly’ people should be protected from discrimination in the workplace. It addresses the major problem, “what is ugly?”, in sheepish way.
For purposes of administering a law, we surely could agree on who is truly ugly, perhaps the worst-looking 1 or 2 percent of the population. The difficulties in classification are little greater than those faced in deciding who qualifies for protection on grounds of disabilities that limit the activities of daily life, as shown by conflicting decisions in numerous legal cases involving obesity.
Um. I’m pretty sure it would be harder than that. Beauty is extremely subjective. Not only that but picture the court proceedings. “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, my client is ugly. Just look at her. She is simply not attractive. I’m here to prove that, not only is she terribly ugly, but her boss decided to fire her because of her looks, and proceeded to hire a attractive replacement. Please award my client $1,000,000.”
The absurdity is obvious.
Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.