Weight Discrimination in the Workplace

A substantial portion of the United States population struggles with their weight, and studies have found that weight discrimination in the workplace is a real issue that many employees face. Surprisingly, weight is not considered a protected characteristic under federal or state law in California, but that does not mean that you are out of legal options if you are facing adverse employment actions because of your weight. To learn more, talk to an experienced California employment attorney in your area today.

Discrimination in the Workplace

Workplace discrimination is defined as an employer taking an adverse employment action against an employee or applicant due to their actual or perceived belonging to a protected class. Federal and state law prohibits an employer from discriminating based on the following characteristics: 

  • Race,
  • Color,
  • National origin,
  • Religion,
  • Age,
  • Disability status,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Pregnancy status,
  • Marital status,
  • Military service, and
  • Genetic information.

Unfortunately, weight is not included in that list under federal and state protections, but some municipalities in California like San Francisco and Santa Cruz have passed legislation that makes weight discrimination illegal in their jurisdictions. In addition, there are other legal options for employees being treated unfairly in the workplace because of their weight.

Weight-Based Hostile Work Environment

Employees are also protected from workplace harassment that rises to the level of a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment requires harassment that is either so pervasive or severe that it fundamentally alters the conditions of a person’s workplace. This harassment can come from anyone in the office, including supervisors, coworkers, staff, customers, or clients. If an employee is being severely or pervasively harassed for their weight, they may be able to file a hostile work environment claim against their employer.

Weight Disability Claims

One final option may be to file a disability claim based on weight. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) allows for weight to be defined as a disability in certain situations. A person must be able to show a physiological or medical cause for their obesity and that it restricts major life activities. In order to file a claim against an employer, an employee or applicant would file a disability discrimination claim and must be able to prove the following:

  • That their weight qualifies as a disability,
  • That they can perform the basic duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodation, and
  • That they were discriminated against by the employer because of their weight-based disability.

Weight-based workplace claims can be complicated due to their lack of protected status at the federal or state level, but that does not mean that you are out of options. Talk to a lawyer today to learn more about whether you have a case.

Talk to a Lawyer Now

If you have questions about filing a claim against your employer for weight discrimination, weight-based harassment, or a weight-based disability claim in California an experienced employment law attorney will be able to help. Call or contact a lawyer in your area today to schedule a case consultation and learn more.