When hiring an employee , what qualities do you look for? It used to be that having the ability to do the job was enough. Not so much anymore.
A recent news story out of Texas tells of how Citizen Medical Center in Victoria, Texas, has a new mandate. All employees must have a body mass index of less than 35 in order to fit with a “representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional.”
Detractors say this won’t make patients feel obligated to change their unhealthy lifestyles and BMI is not a measure of ability. Therefore, this rule is wrong.
Others like writer Suzanne Lucas (known as the Evil HR Lady) suggest the hospital also should exclude people with a BMI under 18.5, because that’s unhealthy as well. Moreover, as she notes, being overweight is generally due to overeating; therefore, being overweight is voluntary.
It’s difficult to know where to draw the line. So here’s a little comparison of some of the good and bad aspects of the hospital’s decision.
Bad: you shrink your candidate pool. Ability and weight do not always coincide. Sure, right now it is an employer’s market. However, it doesn’t make sense to eliminate great candidates who can do the job just because of how they look. Have you ever seen the movie Gattaca ?
Good: you get a healthier candidate pool. According to the April 2012 article , “Study shows causal effect of obesity on medical care costs,” obesity now accounts for almost 21 percent of U.S. health care costs and an obese person incurs medical costs that are $2,741 higher than if they were not obese.
Bad: you’re sending the wrong message. This could be a public relations nightmare. With the story sweeping across the Internet, it’s difficult to know how long before it drops out of the mainstream. Either way, locals won’t forget. And it may be that the hospital will lose other candidates – skinny ones – as a vote of solidarity.
Good: you’re sending the right message. On the other hand, by taking a stand the hospital is effectively telling people to get healthy. It’s not just for the sake of the hospital; it’s for the benefit of every overweight job seeker who walks through those hospital doors. The hospital would rather have them there healthy and applying for a job, then as a patient.
Bad: it may be illegal. According to Lucas, there are a number of cities and states that prohibit discrimination based on weight. But more important is the disparate impact that this action has on African-American women because they are more likely to be overweight based on BMI.
Good: it may be illegal. There really isn’t any good reason to discriminate against anyone for how they look. Whether it has to do with the color of their skin, their height, their weight or even if they wear glasses.
As Lucas points out, “Before you implement any policy, you really need to think through the total consequences. Make the policy fit the actual problem you want to correct…”
Hiring an employee can be a difficult process, so it makes sense to get all the tools you can to help you.