Poll: Ethics of hiring overweight IT workers

I have an ethical question for you IT-industry folks. I’m going to propose it as a poll, but you are also welcome to comment, rant, whatever.

Given:

  1. The IT industry has a high correlation with overweight people, and
  2. Health care costs are rising faster every year, and
  3. Many health care providers charge higher rates for overweight workers

Is it immoral or unethical to refuse to hire someone because they are overweight?
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Now wait, wait, before you knee-jerk and call me a total bastard for even asking such a question, hear me out.

I know someone who used to be overweight. When their company started offering health insurance, the provider rep pulled this person aside and informed them that the costs would be literally twice as much as the other employees due to being overweight. If/when the employee dropped below the overweight line, the policy could be reevaluated. Since the company was matching employee contribution to the health care plan, presumably the company was also paying twice as much. The happy ending to this particular story was that the overweight individual was able to work out something else, but that’s not the point.

Given two candidates with the same experience, same great personalities, and same salary requirements, but one was overweight and would cost twice as much to keep insured, would it be irresponsible for a business owner to choose that person? Similarly, if the overweight person had lower salary requirements, but the total cost of employment was still higher than the non-overweight person, what then? Where do you draw the line?

What about a compromise where the employer picks up the tab for the cost of insuring a non-overweight person, and then the overweight person picks up the remainder?
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Understand, that I’m not talking about what the law is. This is not a question of legality. It is not a question about affirmative action or right-to-work, or anything like that. I’m asking you if it is moral and ethical.

Would your answer change if you were the one unable to find a job because you were overweight?
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Would it change if you knew you had gotten a job because your competition was overweight?
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Just food for thought.

Published by

Rick Osborne

I am a web geek who has been doing this sort of thing entirely too long. I rant, I muse, I whine. That is, I am not at all atypical for my breed.