Texas Hospital Restricts Hiring Based on BMI

A hospital in Victoria, Texas is catching some heat for their new hiring policy. The medical center recently announced that they’ll be limiting employment to people with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 35.

Citizens Medical Center will be turning overweight people away if they apply for work in their facilities. The Citizens Medical Center Chief, Dan Brown, explained this controversial decision in a statement.

“The majority of our patients are over 65 and they have expectations that cannot be ignored in terms of personal appearance.” Many argue the validity of Brown’s statement, including attorney John Griffin.

“Patients want people who help them who know what they are doing. They really care very little about their size, their national origin.”

Clearly there are two cases for debate when it comes to what a patient prefers. Regardless of what may be more desirable to a patient, can the hospital legally restrict employees based on weight? In Texas, race, age, and religion are protected, but weight is not. However, Griffin pointed out that a new amendment to the American Disabilities Act now contains protection of impairments and obesity is covered in the new amendment.

Many are upset with what the hospital has done. Brown pointed out that current employees with a BMI higher than 35 will not be fired, yet offered assistance in lowering their index number. Brown explained why the hospital is continuing with the rule despite criticism.

“We have the ability as an employer to characterize our process and to have a policy that says what’s best for our business,” said Brown.

Maybe Brown is right. Maybe a healthier staff will equal a healthier business. It’s wise to point out though that using BMI as a health standard may not be the best approach. BMI considers all weight the same and does not distinguish between male and female. Also, a small or thin person may have a low BMI, but that disregards a possible metabolic issue that keeps them at a low weight, but not at an optimal health level. There are many more factors to consider to determine one’s health. Citizens Medical Center is a hospital, seems like they should surely know these things.

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