Academic journal article Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling

Weight Loss Surgery among Obese Women: Employment Expectations and Outcomes

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling

Weight Loss Surgery among Obese Women: Employment Expectations and Outcomes

Article excerpt

Abstract - This study utilized the Weight Loss Surgery and Work Expectations (WLSWE) questionnaire to examine the pre surgery expectations and post surgery outcomes for 80 women following WLS surgery. In comparing pre and post WLS expectations and results, improvement was found in increased confidence and relationships at work. Using paired samples t-tests, results demonstrated that women who had WLS reported improvement in ease of getting hired, work performance, work motivation, work discrimination by others, social activities with coworkers, ease of promotion, and completing physical work tasks.

Keywords: weight loss surgery, obesity, women, employment

Obesity affects millions of individuals who often struggle with the effects of being severely overweight and with finding effective and lasting weight loss options (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2010). In terms of disability, morbid obesity is likely to result in significant impairment in function and qualify individuals for disability-related services under the Americans with Disabilities Act (Staman, 2007). Due to the increased number of individuals with obesity, rehabilitation counselors have seen an increase in the number of persons who are morbidly obese on their caseloads and need to deal not only with accommodations for disability, but also significant employment discrimination. More frequently, persons who are morbidly obese are requesting funding for weight loss surgery (WLS) expecting increased employability and decreased discrimination (Law, 2010), bringing to the forefront the necessity of counselor awareness regarding the medical, vocational, and psychosocial implications of obesity in order to assist clients (Romero & Marini, 2006).

Weight Discrimination

Weight discrimination in employment has received increased attention due to an escalation in obesity, employer concerns about health related costs, and numerous lawsuits based on weight discrimination (Lippman, 1998). Employer discrimination towards overweight or obese persons has been reported in virtually all aspects of employment such as hiring (Klesges et al., 1990), placement and position (Bellizzi, Klassen, & Belonax, 1989), salary and benefits (Register & Williams, 1 990), promotion (Bordieri, Drehmer, & Taylor, 1997), disciplinary actions (Bellizzi & Norvell, 1991), and termination (Kennedy & Homant, 1984). In addition, social discrimination affects workplace relationships due to negative stereotyping related to personality characteristics and emotional stability (Moon & Hur, 2011) and may impact worker retention and productivity.

Employment Discrimination. Research has demonstrated a link between obesity and employment discrimination (Roehling, 1999) and, subsequently, weight discrimination in employment continues to rise each year (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2011). Discrimination in the workplace occurs when persons who are obese are less well compensated, less likely to get promoted, face additional barriers in attaining certain jobs, and are subjected to negative stereotyping. Overweight employees are presumed to lack self-discipline, be less conscientious, less competent, lazy and sloppy, have poorer attendance records, be poor role models, and are seen as emotionally unstable (Paul & Townsend, 1995). In a survey of 81 employers' attitudes towards hiring and employing obese people, Williams (2009) found that 15.9% of employers believed that obese applicants should not be employed, and 43.9% thought that obesity was a valid medical reason for not hiring someone. A study of 2,000 human resources professionals found that 93% would rather hire a perceived normal weight person over an obese applicant with the same qualifications. Forty-seven percent thought obesity had a negative effect on employee output, 30% thought that obesity was a valid medical reason for not employing someone, and 75% said their employer was doing little or nothing to deal with obesity (Cawly, Haas, & Rizzo, 2008). …

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