The Whole View, Season 3 Ep 45: Weight Discrimination in the Workplace w/ Dannie Lynn Fountain

Welcome Dannie Lynn Fountain to the Whole View! This week, Stacy and Dannie Lynn discuss weight discrimination in the workplace, what it can look like, and tips for advocating for yourself and others.

Find Dannie Lynn:

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Key Takeaways

Introductions

  • Dannie Lynn is an Human Resources (HR) Staffer at Google, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Expert and author of Ending Checkbox Diversity, which is shining a much-needed spotlight on weight discrimination in the workplace. Much of Dannie Lynn’s book and work comes from her own experience and discrimination as a person of size.
  • Also, she shares steps Corporate America can be taking to make all people — no matter what their weight is — feel comfortable in the workplace.
  • Dannie Lynn is a regular guest contributor and speaker on business strategy worldwide. She has been quoted and interviewed in places like Forbes, Bustle, Business Insider, Cosmopolitan, The Everygirl, Digiday, Girlboss, PR News, and more.
  • Furthermore, she is a voracious reader and is on-track to read almost 500 books this year!

Weight Discrimination in the Workplace

  • Weight discrimination is one of the few legally acceptable remaining ways people of size are marginalized, and weight is one of the most viscerally held internal biases.
  • Michigan is the only state in the US that has legal weight protections. Additionally, some cities also have protections, which include Binghamton, New York; Madison, Wisconsin; Santa Cruz, California; San Francisco, California; Urbana, Illinois; and Washington, D.C.
  • Weight discimination shows up day-to-day, as well as in hiring and promotion; examples include Stacy and Dannie Lynn’s personal experiences and Healthline research:
    • Chairs with arms that are constricting or don’t fit all bodies
    • Being perceived as a “slob” or “lazy”; Also, not feeling “safe”, being on the receiving end of derogatory comments
    • Lack of increase of pay and advancement relative to peers
    • Being penalized for weight through company health benefits or other programs
  • By hyperfixating on BMI, insurance companies and some HR deapartments running health program are completely ignoring everything else that goes with it. Dannie Lynn believes they don’t care about mortality or obesity, they care about he most efficient financial outcomes because most employers pay more than 50% of the healthcare costs.
  • Ultimately, most workplace “health” programs and challenges aren’t actually achieving what they’re trying to achieve, which is generally more efficient expenses for the employer & the health insurance company related to health care outcomes.

Next Steps

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one legal avenue available until weight discrimination becomes a protective class. Dannie Lynn notes that the way that the ADA is written has its shortfalls, but it can mean that BMI-labeled obese and morbidly obese individuals may qualify as having a “chronic illness” or protect other underlying disability. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a ton of published, successful cases to defend weight discrimination. However, there are some examples of getting ADA weight-related accommodations, like a chair that fits.
  • While it may not be a solution for everyone, increased remote work provides some opportunity to level the playing field to achieve some sort of equitable income and can also help protect your mental health.
  • Furthermore, it’s cruicial, no matter your size, to be an advocate and ally when you have the opportunity to speak up.  A YW Boston blog suggests:
    • Consider taking the weight IAT test for weight to see what your implicit bias is towards fat individuals.  
    • During your next staff outing, be sure to pick an activity that wouldn’t exclude someone based on their weight – or ANY access and abilities.
    • Examine your workplace policies around hiring and promotion to ensure that people of all sizes are treated equitably in the process. 
    • Include weight-based discrimination and bullying in guides about inappropriate workplace behavior.  
    • Consider using more positive images of larger people in your communications. 

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Note: Stacy and her guests are not medical professionals. This podcast is for general educational purposes and NOT intended to diagnose, advise, or treat any physical or mental illness. We always recommend you consult a licensed service provider.

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