The workplace should be a space where everyone, regardless of their physical attributes, enjoys equal opportunities and respectful treatment. Sadly, this is not always the case. Weight discrimination, while often less discussed than other forms of discrimination, is a reality for many employees, leading to significant negative consequences both professionally and personally.
In California, employees enjoy broad protection against workplace discrimination, including discrimination based on physical appearance and characteristics. But how can you tell if your employer is discriminating against you because of your weight? Learn about some of the signs and steps you can take to address this issue.
Recognizing signs of weight discrimination
Weight discrimination in the workplace can take many forms. You might notice that you are being treated differently from your colleagues. Certain promotions or high-profile projects may pass you by, You might hear negative comments about your weight or you could be on the receiving end of unfair disciplinary actions.
Another sign could be that your employer consistently ignores or dismisses your concerns about this treatment. These behaviors could indicate that your employer is discriminating against you based on your weight.
Legal protections in California
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act offers protections against workplace discrimination based on a wide range of categories, including physical appearance and characteristics. While it does not explicitly mention weight, courts have recognized that severe obesity can qualify as a disability under the FEHA.
Employers cannot treat employees less favorably because of their physical characteristics, which include obesity. According to FEHA, they also must provide reasonable accommodations for employees who have disabilities, including severe obesity, unless doing so would cause undue hardship.
What to do if you face weight discrimination
If you believe you are experiencing weight discrimination at work, start by documenting incidents. Keep a detailed record of discriminatory comments, actions and decisions that affect your work. You can also report the discrimination to your human resources department.
You can also contact the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to report the discrimination. They can investigate your complaint and take appropriate action if they find evidence of discrimination.
Weight discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue, and understanding your rights is the first step to combating it.