Bourke Accounting doesn’t believe in body shaming. This is not because Bourke employers fear lawsuits; this is because body shaming is cruel, infantile and inappropriate. In addition, my Bourke boss, Bill, understands that a hostile work environment inevitably leads to a decrease in work production. While Bill might be a decent fella, the bottom line is still definitely important to him.
Unfortunately, not all workplace cultures avoid body shaming. In fact, at some places, body shaming is so rampant and casual that one begins to ignore it. For instance, I once had a job where comments about my weight were a daily occurrence. Being on the thinner side, I was constantly accused of being on drugs (I’m not) or having an eating disorder (I don’t). It got to the point where I began absently responding to the nickname, “Bones.”
While being equated to the Crypt Keeper didn’t make me feel great, at least I was openly insulted. For people in heavier bodies, an insult is often wrapped in “good” intentions. For example, during lunch, a co-worker can “sweetly” ask a heavier co-worker if s/he really needs another slice of pizza. The question is obviously offensive and publicly humiliating, but the co-worker can argue that it was only asked out of concern for a colleague’s health. Call me Crypt Keeper all day if it means I won’t be subjected to wide-eyed, “oops, didn’t mean to” abuse.
In early 2020, USNews.com reported that more than 40% of Americans are obese, with 1 in 10 qualifying as severely obese. Because of these statistics, it would make sense if weight discrimination in the workplace was declining. However, that’s not the case. According to a study by the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, “obese adults are 37 times” more likely to endure bias regarding employment; the severely obese are 100 times more likely (WestSoundWorkforce.com). According to Forbes.com, employers could possibly justify not hiring larger applicants, as the losses for “obesity-related absenteeism is estimated to be $8.65 billion per year.” To make everything just perfect, another study found that “61% of [poll] respondents did not consider negative remarks about weight to be offensive” (Forbes.com).
Why does body shaming exist in professional environments? The simple answer is because it’s “legal in almost all states” (Bustle.com), except for Michigan and a few scattered cities (Time.com). We all know that discrimination based on sex, race and religion is illegal, but discrimination regarding weight is okey dokey. However, there are two occasions where this sort of prejudice wouldn’t stand. For example, if weight is only mentioned in connection with one sex, there could be a basis for a sexual harassment complaint (Bustle.com). The second circumstance is if the comments “could relate to someone’s disability status” (Bustle.com), as disability discrimination is prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In my own situation, it must be admitted that my fellow employees were savages towards everyone. While I was made fun of for being too thin, my other co-workers were ridiculed for being too tall, too short, too heavy, too hairy or too stinky. We all know it’s not nice to speak negatively about a person’s appearance, so we shouldn’t do it – don’t make the workplace Eighth Grade – Part II.
Bourke Accounting professionals aren’t tacky and they know how to stay in their lane. No matter where on the spectrum your weight falls, you won’t hear about it from your Bourke Accounting bookkeeper or tax preparer. While Bourke Accounting specialists will have to ask you personal questions, your dietary habits will never be one of them.
Written by Sue H.