Citizens Medical Center, a health-care facility in southeastern Texas, is refusing to hire any person who has a body mass index over 35, which means that in order to work at the hospital, a 5'5" applicant can weigh no more than 210 pounds. Officials say the measure is meant to promote healthy living, so that employees can set an example for patients. The rule is legal in Texas, and the medical center is hardly the first company to institute weight-related policies — in 2010 grocery chain Whole Foods started offering workers with low BMIs better employee discounts. Considering how hard it is for anyone to get a job these days, should hospitals be able to reject applicants based on their weight?
It's wrong, and won't work: This hospital thinks barring obese employees will help "push healthy lifestyles on their patients," says Stephen Green at The Houstonian. But the logic is flawed. Patients won't see skinny caretakers and feel obligated to change their unhealthy lifestyles, just like how "going to the gym and seeing beefed-up personal trainers doesn't aid in behavioral change." This is blatant discrimination, and BMI is not a measure of ability. "It's time for talent to outweigh body size, not only in this hospital, but in businesses across the country."
"Why Citizens Medical Center is wrong to deny obese employees"
Actually, this hospital has a point: "On one hand, it makes sense that your health-care provider is, well, healthy," says Suzanne Lucas at CBS News. But if they are going to do that, they should also exclude people with a BMI under 18.5, "because that's considered unhealthy too." With a few exceptions, "if you are overweight it's because you eat too much and exercise too little." Being overweight is "essentially voluntary, and not something like race that you cannot change."
"Is it OK to discriminate against obese people?"
The hospital will do itself more harm than good: Whether hiring thinner employees has any effect on patients' lifestyle choices remains to be seen, says Anna North at Buzzfeed. But shouldn't the hospital be considering whether BMI is even a good enough measure of someone's weight? A recent study found that BMI "fails to accurately measure body fat." So "the connection between BMI and health is looking increasingly tenuous." That hardly seems like something a hospital should factor into the hiring process. More than just drawing negative attention to itself, the hospital is setting itself up for potential lawsuits.
"Texas hospital stops hiring overweight people"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What is driving the increasingly weird behavior of the polar jet stream?
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- Christians have no moral rationale for spanking their children
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 10 things you need to know today: September 23, 2014
- Should you hope to die at 75? Absolutely not.
- 4 simple steaks you can cook in a pan
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
Subscribe to the Week