Although certain types of workplace discrimination are illegal, California employers sometimes subtly discriminate when considering overweight job candidates of either gender. A recent study conducted by an assistant professor of psychology and her research staff focused particularly on overweight men. The research focus was selected because most data revolves around the struggles faced by overweight women in the workplace.

To conduct the study, the researchers found thin men to work with them as prospective job candidates or customers in retail settings. Those posing as applicants visited stores that had been confirmed to be hiring. In some cases, they showed up without altering their appearances. In other cases, they used prosthetics that allowed them to pose as overweight job applicants. They were shadowed by other researchers for the purpose of verifying the responses of managers. Researchers identified that negative interactions such as early efforts to end an encounter or frowning were more common when overweight applicants were involved. Additionally, affirming actions such as smiling or nodding was less frequent for overweight individuals.

The researchers conducted another part of the study by having individuals view videos that highlighted neutral products such as luggage. The videos were marketing productions in which either thin or overweight parties appeared to be selling the items. Perceptions of the overweight salespersons were much more negative than with thin sellers. The responses were similar for both male and female sellers based on their being thin or overweight. It is important to recognize that none of the discrimination observed was illegal. However, the study provides insight into areas that may require more effort to increase awareness for employers who may need to address workplace discrimination toward overweight employees.

A negative behavior does not necessarily mean that an individual has suffered work-related discrimination. However, people may want to speak with an attorney about their legal rights related to the work environment if negative behaviors are harassing in nature.