Marko Law Firm

Employer Persecution of the Plus-Sized: How Michigan Law Protects Against Weight Discrimination in the Workplace

We are sure that everyone is at least partly familiar with the fact that employers are not allowed to discriminate against their employees based on certain factors like age, sex, or race.

But what about if you are overweight?

Yep, you got it. Both height and weight are covered underneath the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, MCL 37.2202 which clearly states that no employer can refuse to hire, let go, fire, etc. any employee, “with respect to employment, compensation, or a term, condition, or privilege of employment, because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, or marital status.”

Now, you might be asking –– do people really get fired if they gain a little weight or if they are overweight?

In actuality, yes, there have been many cases of employees (more specifically women) who have been fired or were denied employment simply because they were plus-sized. This is why back in 1976, the weight category was added to the act to safeguard employees against this form of discrimination.

For example, back in 2010, there was a case where a Hooters waitress was told that she either had to lose weight or face termination by her boss (even though she was a healthy weight for her height). As a result, she made a claim under the ELCRA.

The Ambiguity of Weight Discrimination Cases

However, most employment discrimination cases (including those involving weight) are not always so black and white. Some courts might be unlikely to conflict with an employer’s decision or they might decide that a employer’s decision is legal.

Why?

Either they don’t want to interfere with any regulations or policies already put in place when it pertains to appearance or grooming OR they feel that the employer had a valid reason (like that the employee’s physical fitness level is a job requirement.)

Like with Harris v. Hutcheson.

A dental hygienist was terminated from the dental practice she worked at. She filed a lawsuit claiming that the owner of the practice discriminated against her weight by constantly making remarks about her diet, her “waddling down the hall”, and her gym habits.

Come to find out, she was fired because of disagreements regarding patient care between her and another dentist (Dr. Dyras.) It was argued that the remarks about weight were a motivating factor, however, she had been employed at the practice for 22 years and (honestly) no reasonable employer would suddenly fire because of weight issues.

Hiring The Best For Your Discrimination Lawsuit

Michigan discrimination cases are never easy and it can be difficult to know whether or not you have a strong case to bring to the table. At Marko Law, we are not intimidated by the courts or sketchy employers –– we will make sure to be thorough and provide you with best possible result for your case.You need an employment discrimination attorney is not only client-focused and is driven by results. Forget the billboard lawyers and give us a call instead for your free consultation.

 

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