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A study finds most people support some anti-discrimination laws protecting the obese

January 05, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times
  • A survey found that people tend to support anti-discrimination laws protecting the obese
A survey found that people tend to support anti-discrimination laws protecting… (Tim Sloan / AFP/Getty Images )

Discrimination happens every day, but obese people have little recourse when it happens to them, since there is no federal law protecting this population. But a survey reveals that public opinion may be in favor of anti-discrimination laws--to a point.

Researchers from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University surveyed 1,001 adults about their opinions on legal and legislative matters relating to obesity discrimination. They were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements such as "Obesity should be considered a disability under the Americans with Disability Act so that obese people will be protected from discrimination in the workplace," "The government should play a more active role in protecting overweight people from discrimination," "Overweight people should be subject to the same protections and benefits offered to people with physical disabilities," and "The government should play a more active role in protecting overweight people from discrimination."

The study participants were also asked if it should be illegal for an employer to refuse to hire a qualified person because of his/her body weight; fire a qualified employee because of his or her body weight; or deny a promotion or appropriate compensation to a qualified employee because of his or her body weight.

Participants tended to favor adopting laws stopping employers from discriminating against obese people in the workplace than they did laws considering obesity a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or with laws offering comparable protections to obese people that disabled people already have.

Women tended to support the laws more than men did, but the majority of men and women thought employers should not being allowed to discriminate against, fire, or deny obese people promotion because of their weight. Survey-takers who were obese tended to agree with the laws more than normal-weight people.

But many normal weight participants agreed with some of the laws and legislation, such as states including weight in their civil rights law.

"It appears that there is broad recognition of weight discrimination and the need for legal remedies across individuals with varying body weights," the authors wrote.

The story was published in the January issue of the journal Obesity.

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