Unemployed and Tipping the Scales

Dear Readers: I recently received this e-mail from A.C. about his struggle to get hired as a person who is overweight. I think his e-mail should be posted on every bulletin board in every office to raise awareness of this issue.

Dear Working Wounded: There is a hidden job discrimination issue today that is rarely discussed -- bias against overweight people. We're not given the same opportunities to advance within the company or make as much money as those of "normal" weight. We're thought of as less productive than our thinner colleagues.

I weigh 320 pounds and have been unemployed for two years. I can see them look at me in interviews in that "You are a fat pig" way and I know that they can't wait to get me out of the office.

I work (or I am trying to work) in the media industry, so I realize that image is important. They want attractive people working for them. I know this, because I wasn't always obese, and when I was thinner I usually either got the job or at least a second interview. As I've gained weight, those days are over.

Obviously, my weight is something that only I can change. But it's been hard to escape the cycle where I don't get the job and then I eat like crazy to make myself feel better about it. Not to mention eating to help me through all of life's other stresses as well. But this doesn't negate the fact that I am completely qualified to do the job that I am being interviewed for.

I have even had trouble finding part-time or retail work, just to make ends meet. But with all this rejection they probably pick up on my lack of confidence. It would be nice to think that when I go for an interview, they're not basing their hiring decision on the size of my pants. They say that we all have a vice in life -- since I don't drink or smoke -- eating has been my drug of choice, and it makes me feel better in the short term. But overall, it's killing me in more ways than one.

There have been a few articles written about size discrimination in the workplace, in which companies anonymously admitted to not wanting to hire obese people. Sure, they might hire someone for an entry-level job but certainly not for a management position. "If you can't take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of our company?" is the general thinking. However, usually they'll just lie and say to the candidate that they found someone with more qualifications.

There are some countries that have made size discrimination illegal, but it is still that dirty, little secret that companies won't admit to in their hiring practices. It's only when you lose weight that you truly realize just how bad people have been treating you. I wish that companies would focus instead on the person inside and what the person has to offer."

We'd like to hear your thoughts on discrimination against people who are overweight. I'll give an autographed copy of "Working Wounded: Advice that adds insight to injury" (Warner, 2000) to the best submission. Send your entry, name and address via: http://workingwounded.com or via e-mail: bob@workingwounded.com. Entries must be received by Wednesday (Feb. 22).

Online Ballot and Contest

Our winning strategy for dealing with privacy at work comes from K.R. in Tacoma, Wash.

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