Weight Discrimination: The Issue of the Future?

Weight Discrimination AttorneysWhat do you think of when you think “employment discrimination?” The major civil rights victories of the 1960s are characteristically thought of as racial battles. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was seen largely as a victory for Americans of color. The Act was preceded in 1963 by the Equal Pay Act, which sought to guarantee equal pay for women. Both laws include broad, sweeping reform in terms of race, gender, nationality and religion.
In the 2010s, it appears as if new civil rights issues are finally culminating in American culture, especially the legal system. This coming election will be key to the future of gay rights, the most talked about social issue of the day.
One other civil rights issue is emerging, however, that was rarely spoken of in the 1960s: obesity. With claims of discrimination based on weight and size on the rise, what’s the future of civil rights for overweight Americans?

Is it Legal to Discriminate Based on Weight?

Currently, there are no laws on the books which protect the obese from discrimination. However, it is becoming common to use the Civil Rights Act of 1991 as a platform for obesity rights. The law opens the possibility for obesity-related discrimination cases along several metrics. For instance, if an individual was discriminated against, and his/her obesity is disease-related, then illegal discrimination may have taken place. Obesity discrimination may or may not be race related in some cases, as obesity rates are statistically higher among Latinos and African Americans.

Did Title VII Leave Obese Individuals Out?

There’s no question that obesity is on the rise in the United States. There’s very little question that popular culture in the U.S. glorifies the skinny, the healthy, and the glamorous. It is profoundly ironic to see advertisements for popular fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Carl’s Jr. featuring supermodels with hamburgers—and it is profoundly illustrative of America’s double standard in terms of exploitation of–and discrimination against–the obese.

The Exception to the Rule

One state in the Union protects against obesity-related discrimination: Michigan. Conversely, the state also passed a law protecting fast food restaurants from being sued over obesity. Other states are known to have considered enacting laws protecting the obese.
If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your weight, especially in the realm of employment, you should consider your legal options. Call the law offices of Valli Kane & Vagnini today for a free consultation.

Hershey Experiences Bitter Taste of Discrimination Defeat

Hershey school discrimination Somewhere in Philadelphia, a boy wanted to go to school. He came from a broken home, a challenging background. He was, however, determined. He worked hard in school, earning his place on the honor roll. He applied to the Milton Hershey School, which provides food, housing and a top-notch education to children with special needs. The Milton Hershey School turned this exceptional child down. Was it his grades? No. According to the school, the boy was denied admission because he is HIV positive.
The AIDs Law Project found out, got behind the young man and his story, and sued. Today, the Milton Hershey School is about to pay out a settlement totaling nearly $750,000. In addition, the school has issued a public apology and has offered to reconsider the potential student’s application. The case appears to have been a clear cut case of illegal discrimination.
A Painful Denial
Nine words cost the Milton Hershey School the case: “direct threat to the health and safety of others.” The school claimed that because the young man is HIV positive, he should not be allowed to live, eat and be educated with other students at Milton Hershey. Little is known about the school’s defense other than those nine words. If based solely on that, what does the school have to go on? According to the Aids Healthcare Foundation, the legal precedent for such an act was laid nearly thirty years ago, when a young man named Ryan White was expelled for being HIV positive. Now, in the 2010s, we celebrate the potential for finding a very real cure for HIV. The disease is far more manageable than it was in the days of Ryan White. In today’s reality, why would a young man with HIV pose a “direct threat to the health and safety of others?”
A History of Understanding
It has been nearly three decades since HIV first became a terrifying disease. The public’s perception of individuals was changed vastly a full two decades ago when NBA legend Magic Johnson announced he had contracted HIV. The disease was associated with homosexuality and, by definition in the mid-1980s, with homophobia. Once Magic made the announcement, it was widely accepted that HIV-positive individuals were all normal human beings tragically dealing with a potentially lethal disease. That should have been the Milton Hershey School’s point of view in 2012. However, this very real and very modern case illustrates the fact that ignorance and discrimination are alive and well in the United States and our school system.