Bruce Carton of law.com tracked down a great story about a Victoria, Texas hospital (in between San Antonio and Houston) that has implemented a hiring policy that requires potential employees to have a Body Mass Index of less than 35. According to the Texas Tribune, the policy shapes up like this:
- Existing employees who become obese over the course of their employment are not terminated;
- The hospital offers to help job candidates get their body mass index down;
- The policy is based upon the concept that an employee’s physique "should fit with a representational image or specific mental projects of the job of a health care professional."
Suzanne Lucas provides her take on the policy and points out that BMI is not a good indicator of obesity. Of course, we can always debate over what constitutes obesity, the bottom line is that this country has a weight problem.
Now the legality of the policy is another issue. Being overweight is not a protected class, but a policy like this that has a disparate impact on a particular group could be.
"Health qualifications" for potential jobs are here to stay. Earlier in the year, a Texas hospital implemented a no smoking hiring policy. It would appear that health care business have a pretty good argument that nondiscriminatory policies which promote health, such as a no smoking or obesity policy make sense.
The bottom line is that more and more employers are going to implement these type of policies. Whether or not President Obama’s health care legislation is upheld by the Supreme Court, the cost of health care continues to rise for private employers. This is going to force private employers to consider health-related issues as they related to their health premiums, and will flow through into the hiring process. Employers will have to be very careful in terms of what policies they ultimately implement to ensure they are not discriminatory.