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Should Florida tackle workplace weight discrimination?

It is no secret that Americans are becoming heavier. In fact, almost 37 percent of adults in the U.S. are currently classified as obese and this number is growing. As the government and other organizations are trying to curb this trend, employers here in Florida may feel pressure to keep overweight people off of their payrolls in an effort to keep health care costs down. But, is this employment discrimination?

Currently, weight is not one of the types of discrimination that is prohibited by federal law. However, last year morbid obesity was given disability protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning that those who are morbidly obese are protected by law from experiencing employment or workplace discrimination here in Florida. Morbidly obese is a classification applied to those who are 100 percent or more above what is listed for a healthy weight for their height.

Additionally, some overweight people who are not morbidly obese may have weight-related conditions that are also protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Many workers' rights advocates are working for more weight discrimination protections. For example, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance--a group that does not agree obesity should be considered a disability--is arguing that the employment laws that ban sex and race discrimination should be expanded to include height and weight discrimination.

For now, only Michigan, as well as a handful of towns and cities throughout the country, explicitly outlaw weight discrimination. Perhaps, in the future Florida will also choose to combat weight discrimination. For now, both employers and employees should treat this issue with care and seek legal counsel about any questionable policies or actions. Although weight is not a protected class, weight discrimination may often be linked to other types of outlawed discrimination.

Source: Huffington Post, "Obesity Discrimination On The Job Provokes Dispute Over Best Remedy," Christina Wilkie, Oct. 4, 2012

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