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I read an article in The Texas Tribune about a doctor of Indian descent who filed a discrimination lawsuit against Citizens Medical Center located in Victoria, Texas.

The doctor who filed the complaint against Citizen Medical Center said they have an unusual hiring policy, which discriminates against job applicants whom are overweight. Further, he said that the hospital does not go by the person’s weight; they go by body mass index. Anyone in the healthcare profession would know that this is not an accurate indication that a person is overweight.

Citizens Medical Center instituted their hiring policy about a year ago. The policy requires potential employee(s) to have a body mass index of less than 35 — meaning if you weigh 210 pounds and are 5-foot-5, you do not qualify for the position. Citizens Medical Center wants their employee’s to be physique fit with a representational image and/or have a specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional, which included free from distraction appearance for hospital patients.

During an interview, Dr. David Brown, chief executive for Citizens Medical Center stated that “The majority of our patients are over 65, and they have expectations that cannot be ignored in terms of personal appearance. We have the ability as an employer to characterize our process and to have a policy that says what’s best for our business and for our patients.”

An Employment Attorney says Citizens Medical Center’s hiring policy is not against the law in Texas. This hiring policy is only illegal in a few states. Those states are Michigan and six other U.S. cities — including but not limited to San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — ban discrimination against the overweight in hiring.

In Texas, employers cannot discriminate against employees because of their race, age or religion,” said DeDe Church, an Austin-based employment lawyer. “Weight is not one of those protected categories.”

This hiring policy is unheard of in most medical circles. Both the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association said that although they’ve seen more hospitals restricting employment for job candidates who smoke — Baylor Health Care System, for example, no longer hires employees who use tobacco — they had not heard of any hospitals with weight or body mass limits.

Citizens Medical Center’s policy does not indicate that paying for the health insurance of an obese workers is too expensive — the reason some companies have been able to denial employment to workers who use tobacco — or suggest that obese employees are unable to do their jobs. Mostly, it references physical appearance, and puts overweight applicants in the same category as those with visible tattoos or facial piercings.

This is discrimination plain and simple,” said Peggy Howell, public relations director for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. She said a hospital should know that lots of medical conditions lead to obesity or weight gain. “So the field of medicine is no longer an option for people of larger body size? What a waste of talent.”

Dr. Brown, the hospital CEO, said there is more to the story than what is written in Citizens Medical Center’s policy. He said that excessive weight has “all kinds of encumbrances” for the hospital and its health plan, and that there is evidence proving that extremely obese employees are absent from work more often.

In a healthcare profession shouldn’t they pay more attention to the job qualification of their healthcare providers, then mass body weight? A professional football player might have a body mass index of 32, which is technically obese, but only have 7 percent body fat. So how can they judge with something that is not accurate?

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