Hospital refuses to hire obese workers

While some providers are refusing to see patients who weigh more than a certain amount, Citizens Medical Center in Texas is turning down job applicants for being too overweight, reported The Texas Tribune.

According to its hiring policy, potential hospital employees must have a body mass index of less than 35 and a physique that should "fit a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional."

Citizens Medical does offer overweight applicants help with lowering their body mass index, CEO David Brown told the Tribune. He also noted it doesn't terminate current employees who become obese while working at the hospital.

The hospital's hiring policy is legal, as Texas law protects race, age and religion from discrimination in hiring but not weight, the article noted. Only Michigan and six U.S. cities prohibit employers from discriminating against the overweight.

However, the policy could still lead to lawsuits: Some courts have considered obesity a disability, making overweight applicants protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the newspaper.

Despite the potential liabilities, hospitals are enforcing stricter hiring practices. Hospitals in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee all have turned away job applicants who smoke. The hospital employers attributed the move to enhanced worker productivity, reduced healthcare costs and improved personal well-being.

In addition to instituting no-smoking rules, hospitals are enrolling workers into exercise programs or offering healthy food options to keep their employees healthy, according to a FierceHealthcare editorial.

"We should be the model, not only for our own employees ... but for reaching out to the community as a leader and a model for what it means to be healthy and to provide those opportunities for the folks in our community," Susan L. Johnson of the employee wellness program at Medical University of (Charleston) South Carolina previously told FierceHealthcare.

For more:
- read the Texas Tribune article