Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today




Contests and

Free Fun!

AARP Games - Play Now!

PROGRAMS & resources

Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Check out the winners list and latest news about this AARP recognition program.

Employer Resource Center

Attract and retain top talent in a changing workforce.

Your Own Business

Information for business owners, entrepreneurs and the self-employed.


Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session. 

Most Popular


Boss Says, 'You're Too Fat'

Weight bias is on the rise in American workplaces

En español | Tom Ferraro, a New Jerseyan who carries 270 pounds on his 5-foot-10-inch frame, got a job cleaning crypts for Carrier Mausoleum in the town of Mahwah. But soon he was back on the street — and he believes it's because of his weight.

See also: Older workers lose jobs for taking medical leave.

Overweight man at work - Weight bias and discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination based on weight is becoming more prevalent on the job front. — Photo by Mike Abbott/Alamy

In Ferraro's telling, company owner Serge Carrier walked into the room where Ferraro was working and, with two coworkers listening, declared him "too fat." Ferraro is now suing Carrier, claiming discrimination based on weight. The company "unequivocally denies" the allegations.

We are a nation of Tom Ferraros. Two-thirds of Americans age 20 and older have enough extra pounds to face health risks, according to the National Institutes of Health. But at the same time, we're overwhelmingly biased against overweight people, convinced they are lazy, weak-willed and unintelligent.

"In the workplace, it results in inequitable hiring practices, prejudice from employers, lower wages, discriminatory action and wrongful termination," says Rebecca Puhl, director of research at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

There has been a 66 percent increase in weight bias in the last decade, especially against women, Puhl reported in a study published in the Journal of Obesity. The numbers are now comparable to race bias.

And as we age, the problem becomes worse. "The further you are from the societal ideal of beauty, the discrimination you face is exponentially harder," says Sondra Solovay, an attorney and author of Tipping the Scales of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination.

Here are four areas in which weight bias currently shows up in American life.


Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was the subject of widespread debate in newspapers and on cable TV earlier this year about whether his weight might affect his fitness to serve as president of the United States. Commentators raised the issue of Christie's health in office and the example he would set for the rest of the nation.

Christie called those commentators "among the most ignorant I've ever heard in my life." They "further stigmatize people in a way that is really irrelevant to people's ability to do a particular job," he said.

Christie ultimately decided not to run.

Next: Placed in less desirable jobs, less pay because of weight. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Jobs You Might Like

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits AT&T Wireless Cell Phone

Members save 10% on monthly usage charges on qualified AT&T wireless plans.

membership adt

Small business owners save 20% on new installation of any new ADT security system.

UPS Store membership discount aarp benefits

Members save 15% on eligible products/services and 5% on UPS shipping at The UPS Store®.

Member Benefits

Renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points


Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.