Currently no Massachusetts law prohibits weight-based discrimination in the workplace. W. Scott Butsch, MD, MSc, an obesity medicine specialist in the MGH Weight Center, is working to change that. “When it comes down to basic justice and treating people equally, I think that kind of fairness is not there for people who have obesity, like some of my patients,” Butsch says.
Butsch, who also is a member of the national Obesity Society, recently testified on Beacon Hill in favor of a bill that would ban workplace discrimination based on height and weight. A similar bill has been proposed for the past 15 years; however, lawmakers on the Labor and Workforce Development Committee voted last October in favor of recommending additional legislation to include height and weight to the protected class descriptions, which already include race, color, sexual orientation and religious creed.
Despite increased attention to the obesity epidemic in the U.S., Butsch says not enough has been done to stop the bias and discrimination overweight people face every day. “As a state that has been at the forefront of the national conversation on health, it just makes sense that we would be the first state in more than 35 years to pass this.”
Michigan is the only state to have an obesity discrimination law for the workplace, and while it remains unclear whether Massachusetts will follow, one thing is certain – Butsch will always be an advocate for his patients. “It’s important for us – physicians and health care providers – to continue to be open-minded and try not to let our stereotypes of patients with obesity control our moral judgments.”
Read more articles from the 01/31/14 Hotline issue.