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Encouraging Employees To Lose Weight

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – How far is your office legally allowed to go to encourage its workers to lose weight?

In 2009, the police chief of Winter Haven, Florida had grown tired of seeing his police force out of shape. In a memo entitled, “Are You A Jelly Belly”, he provided a list of 10 reasons police officers should be in shape, not the least of which was because they needed to be able to chase bad guys. So the force was motivated and lost the extra pounds.

Just kidding!

They complained so vehemently, calling his actions “harassing” that he resigned. Had he done anything actually illegal or discriminatory under the law? Nope.

Unless a worker’s obesity is the result of or becomes a disability for which he faces discrimination, and assuming the office doesn’t treat overweight women worse than overweight men or vice versa, there’s no law that specifically protects people against their employer’s job decisions based on their excess weight.

So while we all know that when your wife says, “does this uniform make me look fat?” the answer is “um, no dear”— but when your employee finds he can no longer fit into the uniform, it’s okay to speak the truth.

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