Weight Discrimination


The majority of American adults are overweight or obese, yet studies have found that weight discrimination is increasing.

This could prove to be a new frontier in employment law. How do we define “overweight” and “obese”?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control define overweight and obesity as “ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height” and that “increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.”

The CDC uses body mass index, a ratio of weight to height, to determine weight ranges for overweight and obesity. An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, while an adult with a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

To put this in perspective, a man of average height (5’9”) would be considered overweight at 169 to 202 pounds, and obese at 203 pounds or more. A woman of average height (5’4”) would be considered overweight at 145 to 169 pounds, and obese at 174 pounds or more.

The National Institutes of Health reports that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of all adults in the U.S. are overweight, while 33.8 percent are obese.

Although the BMI correlates with body fat for most people, it does not measure body fat. As a result, people with a lot of lean muscle mass, such as athletes, could have a BMI that indicates they are overweight when they actually have little body fat.

Click here for more information and access to an online BMI calculator.