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Weight Bias

Fast Facts: When It's Illegal

When weight discrimination is — or can be — illegal

Weight is not a protected characteristic in Minnesota, under the state Human Rights or any other Minnesota or federal law. That means it is generally not illegal for an employer to refuse to hire, fire, or treat an employee or job applicant adversely because the employer believes they are too fat (or too skinny, or doesn't like something else about their physical appearance.)

But it can be illegal to discriminate against a person who is overweight in some circumstances. Examples that range from the probable to the possible include:

  • If an employer engages in gender discrimination by having different standards for women than for men when it comes to weight and fitness;
  • If weight rises to the level of disability;
  • If the overweight person is perceived as disabled by the employer;
  • If a weight requirement has a disparate impact against another protected class, such as age;
  • If obesity causes a disability;
  • If obesity results from an underlying disability, such as an eating disorder, or a compulsive behavior (though some argue that this theory may be more speculative).