Friday, March 24, 2006

Size discrimination on the job?

Cocoa can admit that she never really considers what it's like to live, socialize and work as someone facing a different form of discrimination. Perhaps the latter is because, as a citizen - a black citizen - of the good ol' United States of America, I do not believe that any form of discrimination is worst, more widespread or long-term than that faced by black Americans.

In just five short years spent as an employee, I have been on several interviews where the hiring manager is sincerely shocked that that name and that 'accent' and that resume belongs to that woman sitting across their desk. Also, I am more than familiar with the "you'll meet with so-in-so for 30 minutes," only to barely get three minutes before a silent "so-in-so" sends me back to the lobby. All this said, I am quite familiar with race-based discrimination on the job. Yet, after watching Brent get sidetracked on the Apprentice, I began to wonder how a stroll through the office in his shoes would feel.

If interviewing/securing a job as a black person is sometimes difficult, what would it be like to face the same feat while overweight or (even worst?) overweight and black...

While I have never been "fat" or "chubby," I think I'd be correct to assume that size discrimination is real and prevalent. Hell, out of two trading floors chock with a few hundred workers, not one - man or woman - is obese. One guy is heavy, but he is not a trader, sales person or "a reflection of the boss" assistant. Nope, he works in IT.

A letter from a reader at workingwounded.com, sadly sums up the experience of interviewing with extra poundage:

There is a hidden job discrimination issue 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 presently 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.

...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, when you truly realize just how bad people have been treating you.

If being totally honest, I can say that I have always wondered how some people could present themselves as fitness trainers when they are out of shape and/or very much overweight themselves. Matter of fact, there are certain gyms in NYC with written policies against overweight employees working as fitness experts. Do you think such policies are fair? Do you think they are wrong? Are there any circiumstances under which a company should be able to refuse one employment based on their size?


Thoughts? Opinions? Experiences
CG/R

27 comments:

Harlem Songstress said...

Most definitely there is discrimination for those considered "overweight"for executive positions. I think if you do see someone of that physique, they are ususally in an administrative position or below (think: Welcome to McDonald's-How may I help u?). Depending on the industry sometimes a person never has a snowball's chance in hell to work there (administrative or not) despite there work history/qualifications. And if they do get in, I would imagine their career path for growth would be very short.

Cocoa-if you really want to take it a step further...people discriminate on how physically "attractive" a person is as well. I've read studies on how experiments were done sending two people in for the same job and the more "attractive" person with lesser qualifications had the advantage.

So what happens when you are "unattractive", overweight, AND black?!

Miss Ahmad said...

if you are unattractive fat and black chances are you don't have much of a future in the work world...if you are a woman you are banished to being the woman with the candy bowl on her desk who calls people "sugar" and doesn't get promoted for thirty years

if you are a man you are the janitor working the night shift and no one sees you!

African girl, American world said...

be back later but yeah we taught that fat people are lazy back in elementary and it carries over. Soon to be bossman is on the bigger side so i think the compnay is pretty open but there are many a trump type organization that subscribe to the not only slim and fit type but add model in there too!!!

And as for Snow Black...girl the chile called herself that!!

African girl, American world said...

damn Miss Ahmad!!! sista be telling it and shit hits you smack and center!!!

Cocoa Girl said...

Songstress - I feel ya. I have read studies where attractive people pull in way more money than the nons...

Miss Ahmad - Thanks for your honesty and I completely agree with you. It's hard out there for overweight folks as it is...tacking on black AND non-cute does not make the climb any easier!

Mwabi - Did you go to elementary school here or on the Continent? That is crazy...

Knockout Zed said...

I constantly have to put up with little jokes about how I might fuck somebody up.
"I don't know. Zed's a pretty big guy, I don't want him to beat me up." I know that shit's in the forefront of Y.T.'s mind. I think it makes it difficult for them to hire me. That's why I stacked credentials. Just in case I gotta sue.

KZ

Nichelle said...

Of course there is size discrimination, but people will never say it out loud because it's not politically correct and they don't want any problems.

I think a fat man definitely has a hard time and a woman of any color that is considered unattractive in any way -- especially being fat -- can forget it.

I am positive that I got different reactions (especially from men) when my hair was short vs. the longer style I wear now. When I wore braids it was like being the invisible woman.

Miss Ahmad said...

working in hollywood people descriminate about size and "prettiness" openly, if you are young cute and slender you are gonna be much more likely to have a job, if not a good job!

Not a hipster said...

I can attest to the size factor, since I see it everyday at work. I'm pretty small myself, so I don't understand what it feels like, but I overhear patients at work making comments about overwight nurses.

One patient in particular was having a conversation with her nurse about healthy eating habits. The nurse was "lecturing" her to not eat so much junk food, eat less salt, exercise, etc.

The nurse saying this is about 300 pounds. As the conversation went on, I noticed the patient was listening less and less. When the nurse left, the patient turned to her husband and said, "Who does she think SHE is lecturing me on my diet? Looks like she needs to listen to her own advice."

Damn, that was harsh.

Cocoa Girl said...

Zed - I've had guy friends who deal with the same crap. I think some of them go out of their way to be far more jovial-seeming because of others' intimidation.

Nichelle - I feel you. As someone who has worn her hair natural and chopped less than 1/4 inch short and now has it relaxed, I def understand what you're saying. When it comes to hair, I think black folks are actually far worst at stereotyping than the white 'man,' but that's another post entirely.

Miss Ahmad - All I can say is thank God I don't work in Hollywood. Do peoople openly tell others that they're not cute enough/do not have the right look in order to get hired? I was shocked to hear folks' casting call stories. The feedback/comments on their looks is sometimes unbelievable.

NAH - I've seen this time and time again, especially growing up in the Midwest where many folks are obese. The lifestyle is way more sedentary than coastal life and the eating habits are slightly different. I also watched my mom, who very obese for more than 22 years, get shat on quite frequently because of her size.

I do agree with the notion that if you are an overweight black woman, you will have a lot to contend with in this world. The quickest opinion is to toss every "fat" black woman in that single mom no welfare, mammy role. I DO however hear from overweight black women that if you're obese, black and cute (they say: lightskinned with fairer features) that things are going to be easier for you.

Yet, what's very interesting, is that the latter formula doesn't always work. I actually think that obese white women may have a much harder time in society because white women have so much pressure to be thin - it's an exception. So, it's almost like they have committed a cardinal sin or a heinous felony when they are overweight. Whereas, black folk are still (though I am not for sure how long this will go on) accepting of women with more meat on their bones.

Just a thought...

Single Ma said...

This topic is not funny by any means but I LOL @ miss ahmad's first sentence "if you are unattractive fat and black..." Even after reading it 3 times, it still sounded funny. LMAO DAMN!

Ok, I'm sorry. Here's my real response.

This post really hits home with me because I'm not a size 5 by a long shot. I've been wearing between a 10-14 since I was 16 yrs old, so I've experienced the weight discrimination more often than I care to remember. I don't think this type of discrimination is as blatant as racial discrimination but it is very present nonetheless.

With that said, I do think it is ok to discriminate based on weight under some circumstances. If being slim is a bona fide need to safely and successfully perform the duties required for the job, then it is ok to not hire a fat person. Hell, I've never wanted to be a flight attendent or a fitness trainer anyway. *hmph*

Furthermore, I think there's a HUGE difference between being overweight (according to American standards) and being fat and nasty. When interviewing for a job, appearance is important anyway. So if you can't take the time to make yourself presentable during an interview, why should the employer trust you to represent them when dealing with their customers.

This is an opinion coming from a chubby sista.

Anonymous said...

It's the word attractive that is all encompassing. Being over a certain size/weight is not attractive in this country.

A friend of mine, back in our college days, had gotten an internship at a small accounting firm through her sis' friend. A few days after she started a young woman, recent grad came in for an interview. The assesment was that the girl wasn't actually qualified for the position but she was "fierce" and she got the job. Even my friend agreed she was very pretty but geesh they couldn't hold out for pretty and qualified. Nah, not when "fierce" comes along.

We weren't suprised her looks help her get along in life; we were (young, naive college kids, I suppose) suprised that the hiring manager was so blatant and said this outloud to others in the office.

T. Cas said...

I've noticed in my company that it's okay to be overweight once you reach the level of executive, but senior management generally looks like Barbie and Ken dolls. These are the people representing the company in the community, and I don't think its coincidence that they all have similar weight, skin tone, and hair color, and possess an "All American" look.

African girl, American world said...

dag reading all these responses makes me think of Tyra and how she qquit modeling now at the top and now chile can eat whatever....so damn sad!

And I went to elementary on both continents.

Brandon Q. said...

Great post Cocoa!!! I agree with you but what is troubling to me are the things over weight people have to do to stand out from the crowd. In other words, do you think overweight people have to try to be more funny, more productive, etc.? I appreciate your honesty and realness. Keep up the good work

Cocoa Girl said...

SM - I think those sloppy stereotypes are what kills the chances for a lot of chubby folks. Just how black folks fall victim to blanket treatment based on the poor choices of a few, I think the same happens with fat folks.

Anon - I feel you. I worked in PR for five years and got hired for many a job b/c I had the "right" look about me... That's the world we live in....

T Cas - What city and industry are you in??? I'd be curious to find out...

Mwabi - It's true! Yet, I know a few ex-models and those children are scarred for life! No matter how successful, they just can't seem to let go of that microscope, especially when it comes to themselves.

BrandonQ - Welcome and thanks:) Since I am not "fat," I really don't know the ways that such folks try to overcompensate. Also, I am sure there are many who don't try at all!

I would assume, however, that the ones who do overcompensate for their size at work do so based on several factors, e.g. What industry do they work in? Are they male or female, black or white or Asian, etc.

Speaking of which, I have always felt a special sadness for overweight Asians. They are so small that it must feel awful to be a size 16 Korean. I have Asian friends who grew up a size 10/12 and can't date anyone within their race b/c they do not give them the time of day.

Just something to think about...

Kween_of_klubs said...

girl. amen! i hear ya. i have lived thru everything U are talking about. they are always shocked when they see me after speaking on the phone and reading my resume.

ignorance is everywhere...

T. Cas said...

I'm in Atlanta and in Banking/Finance

Cocoa Girl said...

Kween - It's a shame, right?

T-Cas: Geez - the South AND finance...Cocoa feels for ya:(

African girl, American world said...

gurl it hurts when it comes from a whole culture (Asian thing)

I finally got over it but a normal greeting from Zambians who are generally size 6's is hi you're getting fat! Yes a 10 is considered mega big!!!

P said...

I see it all the time, and I work in HR.

But it's more than weight. It's looks, it's piercings, it's tatts, it's everything that doesn't look quote unquote corporate!

We try to give them behavioral interviewing techniques, but they are so focused on selling and what they think is aestetically pleasing (and this goes ACROSS gender lines), that they do make differences.

They don't tell us. . .But I know.

Cocoa Girl said...

Mwabi and "P": - all Cocoa can say is dayum, dayum, dayum!

BTW, both of my friends from Zambia were sub size zeros and both of their names were Mutinta...LOL

Georgiapeach said...

I think an Hr person that is black and overweight may still be warped enough to discriminate against others in their situation..lol.

Cocoa Girl said...

That's very true. Think about all the black folks who have said in studies that they'd feel more comfy with a white doc than a black one....

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