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Man fired because of his size wins lawsuit

The Houston Chronicle reports that a man who was fired from his job solely because of his size (his performance reviews were excellent) has been awarded compensation by the local district court. The July 25th article, Fired obese worker will get $55,000, details the court case and the circumstances surrounding it.

It's good to know that larger Americans can turn to the court system when they are discriminated against by employers. However, Mr. Kratz hasn't found a new job since being fired in 2009. I hope that the sum he's been awarded by the courts helps him out, but this just underlines how pervasive size-based discrimination is in employment.

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vesta44's picture
vesta44
July 27th, 2012 | Link | That 6 months of

That 6 months of outplacement services isn't going to do him much good in this economy, especially with the way employers look at fat people. The main problem is that employers don't have to tell you why they aren't hiring you. All they have to do when you apply for a job is not call you back and you don't have a clue why you aren't being hired. You may know it's because of your size, your race, your age, your gender - but as long as that employer ignores you, you're up shit creek without a paddle as far as really knowing why you didn't get hired. And all the laws/rules/regulations in the world aren't going to change that.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

Alyssa July 29th, 2012 | Link | Winning the battle and losing the war

I am glad to see the federal EEOC took this case and was able to get a settlement of $55,000 for Mr. Kratz. The linked article stated he made $21 an hour, equivalent to $43,680 a year. So, this amount is a bit more than his annual take-home there, but that does not take into account his potential loss of health insurance and other benefits. It definitely would have been better if the EEOC had been able to get his job back. It's important to note that the EEOC based their litigation upon discrimination against someone with a disability. Viewing fat as a disbility is, in my mind, a two-edged sword. Is fat in and of itself a disability? I don't think so. However, the article doesn't provide enough information about the case for the reader to know how fat was presented as a disability in this particular instance. On the one hand, I don't think it is an improvement in the social status of fat people in the US to be labeled as a group as "disabled." But, on the other hand, if this EEOC case puts the fear of God into some employers who want to fire a fat person simply because he/she is fat, the net result may be less size discrimination in the work place--albeit based upon fear of being sued. I'm curious as to what others here think?

Alyssa July 29th, 2012 | Link | ABC News Article

I was so interested in this report that I did some further searching and found an ABC article from September 28, 2011, shortly after the EEOC initiated the suit against his former employer. See http://abcnews.go.com/Business/government-sues-bae-systems-firing-600-lb-employee/story?id=14623887&page=2. It appears that Kraft was fired for not using his seat belt when he drove his forklift. He didn't wear it because it did not fit, but the company ignored his requests for a seatbelt extender. A real "gotcha" sort of situation. If this is the extent of his "inability" to perform his duties, I think the EEOC should have fought harder to get him his job back. By the way, ABC chose a really offentisve title for its article. "600 lb. Man in Houston Says He Was Discriminated Against For Disability."

closetpuritan July 29th, 2012 | Link | This actually seems more

This actually seems more intuitively disability-like as a reason to fire him than what I was expecting. The problem was equipment designed for a "standard" type of body. Equipment or buildings meant for a "standard" body could pose problems for people who were extremely tall or short or on crutches or in a wheelchair or blind or deaf. (Blind or deaf might seem less obvious, but think as an example of information conveyed either only in audio or only in visual format--the problem is the use of a particular format, rather than the ability to absorb the information.) I was doing a quick Google search to see if shortness was considered a disability, for comparison, and came across this Discover Magazine blog post, and it seems like size would fit pretty well into the "second" category, except for the fact that's it's not an ability, just a physical characteristic. The problem here is society (or, specifically, a seat belt) being set up with the expectation that people will be one size, and it causing problems for people of another size. What if, in the Arthur C. Clarke story it mentions, instead of having wings the aliens were a race of Lilliputians? Humans would be still be unable to go through doorways.

richie79's picture
richie79
July 30th, 2012 | Link | "By the way, ABC chose a

"By the way, ABC chose a really offentisve title for its article. "600 lb. Man in Houston Says He Was Discriminated Against For Disability."

Of course, because the MSM agenda is to inflame public opinion against fat people and this headline basically implies that an 'uppity fatty' is claiming a label ('disabled') to which he is not entitled and the perceived associated advantages in terms of discrimination and civil rights, with the intension of outraging the reader's sense of fairness and justice. It's the sort of inflammatory and divisive type of reportage that unfortunately seems to be par for the course when covering any story involving a fat person.

Whether fat is a 'disability' or not is a complex question and one which has potentially significant implications due to only the latter being a protected class in the US and UK. In terms of access to goods, services and employment, even in the context of a current debate in the UK about whether fat people should be permitted to use mobility scooters if they don't have a distinct physical disability, having fat considered a disability would be potentially advantageous.

Certainly the 'social model' of disability, which (unlike the much more accepted 'medical model' of 'broken bodies' emphasises the limitations imposed on those who do not conform by mainstream, normative society) supports the idea that fat people are 'disabled' (disempowered) by a society that stigmatises us and refuses to adapt the physical and moral environment to accommodate our needs, as in the case of Mr. Kratz above. And of course, there are those (though far fewer than claimed) whose size CAN act as a restriction on their physical ability to access a society built for smaller / faster / fitter people.

However because the popular conception of 'disability' is all mixed up with notions of permanence, dependency on others and the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' sick, I can see how the idea of fat people, whose situation is erroneously stereotyped as being both self-inflicted and resolvable, being 'disabled' in the conventional sense could fuel further resentment and division, including (sadly) from other categories of PWDs.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

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