A study published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that thin women are paid more than their overweight colleagues, while thin men actually make less. According to ”When It Comes to Pay, Do the Thin Win? The Effect of Weight on Pay for Men and Women,” being thin earned women about $16,000 more a year, on average. But thin men made about $8,000 less than their male co-workers.
The researchers suggest that the difference results from subconscious decisions based on entrenched social stereotypes. Their report cites studies in which obese individuals were identified as “undisciplined, dishonest and less likely to do productive
work.” At the same time, employers and fellow employees associate qualities such as self-discipline, thrift, hard work and positivity with thin individuals.
Discrimination against the obese is not illegal, although the EEOC has supported some overweight workers’ claims for discrimination if there was some link to an impairment protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Good interviewers, however, should be alert to the rule that unconscious bias may play in decision-making. For a very interesting review of the issue of such bias in the jury selection process, see Judge Mark Bennett’s article: “Unraveling the Gordian Knot of Implicit Bias in Jury Selection: The Problems of Judge-Dominated Voir Dire, the Failed Promise of Batson, and Proposed Solutions.” Or read Malcolm Gladwell’s wonderful book, “Blink“.