Obese Work­ers Should Be Al­lowed to SUE Over Of­fice ‘Fat­tism’, Claims Judge

How­ever, fat peo­ple are pro­tected only if they can prove they are also dis­abled.

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Judge Rostant, who is train­ing di­rec­tor for the Em­ploy­ment Tri­bunals of Eng­land and Wales, also warned larger peo­ple are paid less on av­er­age than thin­ner col­leagues.

Over­weight work­ers could soon have the power to sue their col­leagues for cruel re­marks about their size, a lead­ing judge has claimed.

Philip Rostant, a judge spe­cial­is­ing in em­ploy­ment law, said the only way to tackle so-called ‘fat­tist’ dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work­place is through leg­is­la­tion. He said such laws would pre­vent bias against those of ‘non-ideal weight’, who of­ten find it harder to get jobs and are at greater risk of be­ing sacked.

Judge Rostant, who is train­ing di­rec­tor for the Em­ploy­ment Tri­bunals of Eng­land and Wales, also warned larger peo­ple are paid less on av­er­age than thin­ner col­leagues. In an aca­demic pa­per, co-au­thored with Ta­mara Her­vey, a pro­fes­sor of law at Sh­effield Univer­sity, he warned the work­place can be a tough place for heavy em­ploy­ees. They wrote: ‘ Peo­ple of non-ideal weight (over­weight or se­verely un­der­weight) are sub­jected to dis­crim­i­na­tion, in the work­place and else­where, based on at­ti­tu­di­nal as­sump­tions and neg­a­tive in­fer­ences ... such as that they are in­suf­fi­ciently self-mo­ti­vated to make good em­ploy­ees.’ Leg­is­la­tion could mean abu­sive terms such as ‘fatty’ or a re­fusal to em­ploy or pro­mote peo­ple be­cause of their weight would bring sim­i­lar penal­ties as dis­crim­i­nat­ing against eth­nic mi­nori­ties or gay peo­ple. The pa­per points out that dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple be­cause of age, race, gen­der, re­li­gion, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and dis­abil­ity are all out­lawed un­der the Equal­ity Act of 2010.

How­ever, fat peo­ple are pro­tected only if they can prove they are also dis­abled. In 1993 about 14 per cent of adults were obese, de­fined as hav­ing a body mass in­dex of more than 30. That fig­ure has risen to about 25 per cent now. The in­crease has led to the rise of ‘fat ac­tivism’ to out­law dis­crim­i­na­tion, the Sun­day Times re­ported. The aca­demic pa­per said: ‘ Be­ing over­weight, or even obese, is not in it­self a pro­hib­ited ground of dis­crim­i­na­tion in UK law, or in the law of the Euro­pean Union. ‘This sit­u­a­tion leaves a gap in the law which is re­me­di­a­ble only by leg­isla­tive re­form.’

Ear­lier this month, a Sh­effield Hal­lam Univer­sity study re­vealed 181 re­cruiters given iden­ti­cal CVs with ac­com­pa­ny­ing pho­to­graphs de­pict­ing fat and thin peo­ple re­jected al­most all the can­di­dates who were fat.

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