Can California Employers Discriminate Based on Weight?

May 25, 2019 Admin Discrimination

Unfortunately, yes. Weight is not a protected status under state law, and California employers are free to terminate a person for any reason that doesn’t qualify as a protected status—even if that offense is carrying excess weight. In fact, that’s the norm for all states but one—Michigan. Nonetheless, there are some cities in California where weight is a protected status, including San Francisco, where the Human Rights Commission added both height and weight to its municipal code and Santa Cruz, where height, weight and physical characteristics were added.

Weight Discrimination: Does It Exist

A Yale University Study back in 2008 revealed that up to 10 percent of female and 5 percent of male applicants had faced weight discrimination in their lifetimes and were rejected for jobs as a result. Vanderbilt University suggests that discrimination doesn’t end with a job interview; a study there in 2014 found that overweight women are paid less than their male counterparts in many different industries (beyond the known wage disparity among women and men). An additional study in 2016 by the University of Surrey showed that male job interviewers more “harshly” judged female candidates when they were overweight, even more so than male candidates. Women interviewers judged both male and female candidates harshly when they were overweight. The study’s author says that body size “matters for wages, not simply a proxy for beauty.”

Free Reign for Weight and Size Discrimination

California employees are employed “at will.” This long-recognized distinction allows employers free reign to fire and hire for any reason they want. Employment in California is voluntary and basically indefinite for both the employer and employee, with the exception being the protected statuses (and any contract that you might have in place with your employer).

What are Protected Statuses

The U.S. government outlines protected statuses that prevent employers from discriminating against employees and applicants for jobs. These include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Disability

In addition, employers cannot fire employees as retaliation for filing a harassment or discrimination lawsuit, reporting an unsafe or illegal practice, or for taking advantage of family medical leave.

The bottom line is that even if you can prove size or weight discrimination, there’s nothing that you can do about it. As attitudes evolve, it’s possible that other cities in California may follow suit with Santa Cruz and San Francisco to realize that discrimination is ugly in all its forms, including when it occurs over something as innocuous as size or weight.

How Can We Help

If you have experienced discrimination at work based on a protected status, then Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers wants to help. We will stand up for you in a court of law and defend your rights to the letter. Contact our Los Angeles discrimination attorney today to discuss the particulars of your case and determine if you have grounds for a claim. Call us at 310-527-6994 to set up your free, confidential case consultation with our team.

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