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December 05, 2021

How much does being overweight cost you at work?

It's tough being big ... and expensive. For women, being obese may cost $4,879 per year, according to George Washington University researchers. And while men fare a bit better, they tend to come up short as well.

Aside from the obvious, like increased medical and travel costs, heavy people often tend to earn less, largely due to a prejudice that many people wouldn’t even think about: obesity bias.

One Texas hospital, for instance, has decided that it won't hire anyone with a Body Mass Index of 35 or more. That could, depending on how you play with BMI figures, mean a 5',5" person who's weighs 210 pounds. 

Well, at least they're up front about it.

Recently, researchers gave participants a series of résumés with small photos of applicants attached, both before and after weight-loss surgery.

They discovered that criteria like starting salary, leadership potential and the actual selection of the candidate for the job were all negatively affected, particularly if those hiring felt positive about their own appearance.

People who are confident in their looks often believe that obese individuals deserve less privileges and opportunities, the study suggests:

“The higher participants rated their own physical attractiveness and the importance of physical appearance, the greater the prejudice and discrimination,” says lead researcher Kerry O’Brien. “One interpretation of this finding might be that we feel better about our own bodies if we compare ourselves and discriminate against ‘fat’ people.”

Just like elementary school, it seems.

Do people with weight problems suffer at work? Have you experienced or witnessed such discrimination in the workplace?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...