Truth be told, all kinds of overt and subtle discrimination comes into play during the employment process. That’s nothing new. Attempts to deal with it are always welcome, but then we have the problem of unintended consequences. TechRepublic blogger Toni Bowers recounts a story that gives us plenty of food for thought, no pun intended.
In 2007, Adam Childers, a cook at a restaurant chain called Boston’s The Gourmet Pizza, injured his back while at work. Doctors determined that Childers was overweight and without weight-loss surgery, the back injury couldn’t be fixed. Childers was advised to undergo weight-loss surgery and the company was forced to pay for it as part of the Workers’ Compensation claim.The company argued that Childers’ weight constituted a pre-existing condition for which it was not responsible. But the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled differently, saying that the employee’s pre-existing obesity, combined with his back injury and subsequent weight gain, formed a new work-related “single injury” the employer was responsible for treating.
That sounds like a happy ending for Childers, but think about how the ruling might weigh on the mind of a HR executive when an obese candidate comes in for an interview. As Bowers points out, two-thirds of Americans are technically overweight (by one government definition), 27 percent are obese, and they’re not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. If an employer sees a financial risk when he sees an overweight job candidate, what chance does that candidate have? It’s just one more angle on the impossibly complex issue of employer-provided health care.
— Don Willmott