Obese Workers Weigh on Employers’ Competitiveness
By George Anderson
Obese employees, those 30 or more pounds overweight, are weighing down their employers with increased health care costs and associated lack of productivity because of time spent away from the job.
The results of a study published in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion said that obesity costs companies with 1,000 people on staff an average of $285,000 because of charges related to healthcare and absenteeism.
Eric Finkelstein, a health economist for RTI International, a non-profit think tank, told USA Today that many companies are offering wellness programs and incentives for employees who keep to a healthy weight.
An increasing number of employees, however, fall beyond the scope of these programs. “Workplace wellness programs aren’t going to have much effect on people who are already 100-plus pounds overweight,” he said.
Employees who are severely overweight require “aggressive disease management,” said Mr. Finkelstein.
Moderator’s Comment: Is obesity compromising employees’ ability to do their jobs and employers’ ability to compete? In low margin businesses, such as
grocery retailing, can employers afford to hire obese workers? Considering the evidence of the costs associated with obesity, should a person’s weight be legally allowed as a
consideration in the hiring process?
For those outraged by the questions above, let it be stated that we’re simply following a path of inquiry and not advocating a position where the overweight
are denied employment. –
George Anderson – Moderator