Page 54 - BusinessWest May 13, 2024
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Gainful Employment
Weight Loss, Miracle Medications, and the Workplace
BY ABBY M. WARREN, ESQ. AND VIRGINIA E. MCGARRITY, ESQ.
Whether you are picking up a well-respected periodical or a celebrity newsmagazine, you cannot avoid reading about semaglutide injection drugs — drugs used to control blood- sugar levels for individuals with type-2 diabetes and weight loss.
‘Ubiquitous’ is the only word to describe the news coverage of these ‘miracle medications.’ As news has spread about these medica- tions, their use has expanded far outside of Hollywood to individu- als across the country, ultimately leading to a reported shortage. So, what impact, if any, does weight, weight loss, or the spread of such medications have on the workplace?
Weighty Considerations
First, studies have long concluded that discrimination based on appearance, including weight, occurs in employment and other areas of life and that it may disproportionally impact a specific group or groups of individuals. Likely in response to such evidence, effective Nov. 26, 2023, New York City passed a law protecting individuals who live in, work in, or visit the city from discrimination based on their height or weight regarding employment, housing, and public accommodations.
While New York City may be an early adopter of such a law, there may be more jurisdictions that follow this trend. Further, on the fed- eral level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has long taken the position that height and weight are generally unacceptable pre-employment inquiries as they may disproportionately impact employees of different protected characteristics. In short, weight has
ABBYWARREN
VIRGINIA MCGARRITY
“Studies have long concluded that discrimination based on appearance, including weight, occurs in employment and other areas of life and that it may dis- proportionally impact a specific group or groups of individuals.”
   always impacted the workplace, including workplace decisions. Second, there may be harassment or workplace bullying related to
appearance, including weight. Harassment, whether sexual or based on other protected characteristics, can involve comments or actions related to the physical body and appearance. The same is true of bul- lying and targeting in the workplace. In today’s climate, where mil- lions of employees are being prescribed or taking weight-loss drugs, this may include employees asking questions of a co-worker who has lost weight, asking whether a co-worker is taking a weight-loss drug, making judgmental statements, stigmatizing such individuals, and similar behavior.
While harassment and bullying related to appearance may not be
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 54 MAY 13, 2024
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