Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Thanks to everyone who posted advice for our anonymous reader. I got this email from her today, and post it here with her permission:

I have great news! I went into the meeting today with my girlfriend (not having the opportunity to have read any of the blogs on your site yet) and the rehab counselor was so sweet. She really focused on making up for the past Counselor's actions. Which was awesome for me. I didn't want to revisit that traumatic day at all.

My girlfriend and I felt no homophobia at all. I went in as my confident self and it seems like she approved me for their services. Because from how she was talking, she talked about the future. Not using the word "if," she used the word "when" repeatedly: When we work down the line together, or when you receive future correspondence, do this and do that. She's mailing me my plan. Wheeeeeee!

I am so so so happy. I can get past all of it and not have to deal with the trauma so much. No lawyer would take it because it's not illegal to deny based on size or weight. Which really is wrong because it's my disability that took away my active life and the weight poured on. I felt I had to fight and fight and that's something I can't do now, I'm fighting three other discrimination situations. I am a bubbly person, I am a fighter, but a person can only handle so much in life before you lose the happiness or time for family. I feel like my own Erin Brockovich. It's hard to encounter so much daily hatred for being fat, lesbian and in a wheelchair. I can handle hatred, it took me from being bitter, to making me stronger, it isn't right or humane, but it is what it is. I can only pray to God for strength and remember The Serenity Prayer everyday.

My goal in life is to help people. I am not in it for me, I want to do social work. Well, I guess feeling great about helping others is in it for me. I did on my own get my local post office to widen their doors and they did a whole reconstruct for disabled people. It took me half a year, but the disabled can feel like everyone else and buy stamps or conduct business. Woohooo!

I really love people and I try daily to be kind, generous and loving to people and that teenager or that old person who looks at me and laughs, snickers, or rolls their eyes, I thank God for, because it makes me thankful to be alive! To feel. To appreciate the people who do love me and accept me. Thank you, bless all of you, and I will keep you posted.

A happy ending, at least for now.

But tell me, the lawyers among us, is it truly legal to discriminate based on size and weight?


Anonymous said...

Hi, Harriet. Here is Wisconsin's discrimination law:

Prohibited bases of discrimination. Subject to ss. 111.33 to 111.36, no employer, labor organization, employment agency, licensing agency or other person may engage in any act of employment discrimination as specified in s. 111.322 against any individual on the basis of age, race, creed, color, disability, marital status, sex, national origin, ancestry, arrest record, conviction record, membership in the national guard, state defense force or any reserve component of the military forces of the United States or this state or use or nonuse of lawful products off the employer's premises during nonworking hours.

So yes, unfortunately, it is permissible to discriminate, in the employment context at least, on the basis of size or weight.

Harriet said...


U can hardly believe this. Am I naive, or is this the norm?

Truly, I am speechless.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am overjoyed to hear how well things went for her! She sounds like a dear.

Yes, fat discrimination is quite legal. I believe it is only illegal in Michigan.

But age, gender, minority status and other things are illegal and continue to happen. In fact, I think it is happening more in workplaces, hidden behind the rationale of 'health' costs.


Anonymous said...

I think that Wisconsin's law is typical. Sometimes municipalities (e.g., Madison, Milwaukee) have their own antidiscrimination laws, which can be more protective than state law (though not less; that is, they can't take away protections offered by the state law).

Anonymous said...

While it's legal in most places to discriminate against someone based on weight, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits government entities (among other things) from discriminating against people for having a disability.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the reasons COFRA is working on the Fat Fifty, with state-by-state coverage of discrimination laws.

It's legal to discriminate based on weight in all but San Francisco, Washington DC, and Michigan. Every other state? Totally legal.

Once the Fat Fifty is established the follow-up goal is to encourage local folks to organize and help get these laws changed.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's legal to discriminate based on weight unless the weight can be argued as an actual disability. The only places where they've added weight/size to the nondiscrimination laws are Michigan (state law) and San Francisco (city ordinance; thanks to NAAFA). Paul at Big Fat Blog is sponsoring the Fat 50 project, which goes state to state (plus Canadian provinces and some countries) and lists discrimination policies, anti-fat laws, fat-positive court decisions, etc.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand you guys. When did being overweight become a disability? I thought one of the tenets of fat acceptance is the belief that everyone wants to be treated the same. Wanting to be covered by the disability act is kind of undermining your efforts,no? And how exactly does one prove that an employer is anti-fat? Thanks for your time

Harriet said...

No one said being fat is a disability. This story was from a reader who is both fat and disabled. We're talking about fat discrimination, though, and the fact that the law has absolutely no protection for those who are fat.

Like any discrimination, fat discrimination is difficult to prove. Why do you think civil rights for African Americans took so long?