Last September I asked whether “fat” was the new protected class. A lawsuit filed earlier this week in Michigan seeks to answer this question in the affirmative. Cassandra Smith—5’8” and 132.5 pounds—claims that Hooters put her on a 30-day “weight probation” as a condition of keeping her employment. That probation followed a performance evaluation counseling her about the fit of her uniform and advising her to join a gym to fit better into the required uniform. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has the details, along with a copy of the lawsuit.
Unlike Michigan, Ohio’s statute does not include “weight” as a protected class. Nevertheless, decisions based on an employee’s can be discriminatory under the right circumstances. Morbid obesity can be a protected disability if it manifests in or is the result of a physiological condition. Weight could also be categorized as gender discrimination on the basis of sexual stereotyping.