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Obesity and Health Care Costs


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Obesity in the Workplace
Suzette B. Johnson
Southern New Hampshire University

Discrimination Against the Obese in the Workplace

In the United States, there has been a substantial increase in obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every American adult is now considered obese. Obese is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Obesity can contribute to diabetes, heart disease, stroke or certain kinds of cancer. What effect does obesity have in the workplace and how can we fight it?
What is the Correlation between Obesity and Health Care Costs The CDC and the National Institute of Health (NIH) indicate that obesity contributes to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer, all of which are leading causes of preventable death. In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were over $147 million. 6 to 10% of U.S. health care spending is contributed to obesity. The health costs are 30% higher than normal weight persons.

Is Obesity a Protected Class When the Americans with Disabilities Act was first passed, the EEOC viewed severe or morbid obesity as impairment under the Act, but not general obesity itself. But, this has changed under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act. In 2013, the American Medical Association classified obesity as a medical disease. While this classification does not affect the ADA, it could be perceived that obesity is a protected class.

How should obesity be addressed in the workplace? Michigan is the only state that has laws prohibiting an employer from discriminating against an employee due to weight. The state’s civil rights laws, which were passed in 1976, includes a prohibition of discrimination based on weight. Six cities in the U.S., including San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Madison, WI, either forbid discrimination based on

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