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New SHRM Research Details Weight Discrimination in the Workplace

Half of People Managers (50 percent) Say They Tend to Favor Interacting with Healthy Weight Employees

Today, SHRM released new research detailing the current state of weight discrimination in the workplace. 12 percent of U.S. workers say they have felt unfairly treated due to their weight at some point in their career.

Collected in February – April 2023, this research is particularly significant given the ongoing conversations surrounding weight discrimination and the potential introduction of state and local legislation to ban such discrimination. Additionally, it contributes to the growing dialogue on weight loss medications.  

Key findings include:

  • 15 percent of U.S. workers say that others at work have made false assumptions about them because of their weight at some point in their career. 
  • Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of U.S. workers who have experienced unfair treatment at work due to their weight say it made them feel like quitting their job. 
  • Although relatively few U.S. workers have sensed or experienced weight discrimination themselves over the course of their career, 1 in 5 have witnessed others being mistreated. 
  • Common stereotypes of certain weight groups remain somewhat prevalent – obese employees are more likely to be perceived as lazy (27 percent), unmotivated (23 percent) and unprofessional (17 percent) while average weight employees are more likely to be perceived as high performing (35 percent), hard-working (32 percent), motivated (31 percent) and as leaders (30 percent). 
  • 11 percent of HR professionals say an applicant’s weight has played a role in decisions their organization has made during the job application process. 
  • Over 1 in 10 (11 percent) HR professionals say that obese employees at their organization are not always treated as fairly as average weight employees.


In February 2023, SHRM surveyed a sample of 1,045 HR professionals using the SHRM Voice of Work Research. HR professionals responded on behalf of their organizations and data were weighted to be representative of U.S. companies, with a margin of error of ±3.78 percentage points. In March 2023, SHRM surveyed a sample of 1,000 people managers using a third-party online panel. Lastly, in March and April 2023, SHRM surveyed a representative sample of 1,749 U.S. workers using a third-party online panel.

About SHRM 

SHRM creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. With nearly 325,000 members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 235 million workers and families globally. Learn more at