In a move sure to set off red-alarms for employment attorneys, a Texas hospital has banned obese workers with a body-mass index of 35 or more. The body-mass index analysis has been used for more than 100 years, praised for its simplicity. While it may be an outdated and lenient way of measuring health, this means of screening potential hires is legal, for now, in Texas and most other states. Still, you should expect a discrimination case to be brought against the hospital. The tide is likely going to turn on this sensitive issue, as more and more Americans are considered obese these days. In 2010, no state in the union had an obesity rate of less than 20%, and many had obesity rates of upwards of 30%. Consider that in 1996, only sixteen years ago, no US state’s population of obese people was over 19%. Canada recently held its first-ever conference on “weight-based” discrimination, calling “weight-ism” the last socially acceptable basis for discrimination. If our neighbors to the North are any indication, the United States may soon be taking a different approach with employers who refuse to hire, or discriminate in more minute ways, based on obesity.
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