Does Google Discriminate Against Fat People?

A troubling report published by our friends at Jezebel today suggests that Google might be systematically discriminating against overweight people in their hiring practices. An anonymous tipster called “Ms. G.” told them that after conducting a phone interview with Google, she was called into their New York office for a test. (She was applying for an administrative position.) After the test was over, she said, “seven of the roughly 20 people there were politely escorted out. All seven were overweight women; everyone who stayed was thin.” They also wouldn’t tell them their test scores, saying that they “consider the overall person.”

Via Jezebel:

She can’t be sure what Google’s reasoning was, but when Ms. G and the six other applicants were escorted out, “There was not one fat person left in the pool.” In the elevator, she says, the rejected women “kind of looked at each other. One girl had tears in her eyes and that’s when I realized, [the HR official] separated out the fatties.”

Now, this is not necessarily evidence of discrimination; it could just have happened that of this particular applicant pool, the less qualified people happened to be heavier than the ones who were more qualified. But if it’s true, it pokes a hole in Google’s reputation for having an enlightened, open, and welcoming corporate culture. All those gourmet lunches and on-site ball pits or whatever won’t seem so fun anymore if Google is exposed as a discriminator!

Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that weight discrimination is not actually against the law, so even if they were systematically weeding out “the fatties,” there would be nothing said fatties could do about it besides make them look bad. (The extremely obese are sometimes protected under the Americans With Disabilities act, but even that’s not a surefire bet, and most overweight people are not so overweight that it qualifies as a disability.) That’s sort of fucked up, no? I can see being allowed to discriminate based on looks for a job that’s centered around fitting societal ideals of beauty (a stripper, perhaps, or maybe a cocktail waitress?), but administrative work has nothing to do with looks.

Then again, these charges could be totally trumped up, and Google could be the warm cocoon of diversity and innovation that we currently believe it to be. What do you think?

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    • Eileen

      I think most workplaces, consciously or unconsciously, discriminate against fat people – or anyone who doesn’t fit the ‘look’ they’re going for (bald men, short men, racially ‘undesirable,’ whatever that means for the particular company, attractive women, in some professions). It wouldn’t surprise me if Google does the same. I don’t necessarily think there’s a conscious ‘she’s fat; I don’t want to hire her,” going on, but I do think that someone who is overweight is probably perceived more negatively than someone who is not, no matter how enlightened Google may or may not be.

      • Jamie Peck

        Do you think that this should be allowed? There are laws that protect against race and sex discrimination, after all, but not weight.

      • Eileen

        Well, provable discrimination is relatively easy to outlaw and should be, but I think the real problem are the semi-unconscious negative perceptions that we have of people based on their appearances. I’m really not sure how to go about getting rid of those, though.

      • Kristen

        Yes, I was thinking something along the lines of Eileen’s first comment. I have no doubt that companies DO discriminate against fat people, which of course should not be allowed (but is hard to prove/regulate). However, a successful company is probably (probably!) smart enough that they’re not systematically rounding up all people above xxx pounds and showing them the door.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’d guess it was a mix of conscious and unconscious discrimination, which Eileen explained nicely, plus probably a bit of unlucky coincidence.

    • niamh

      Google ought to publish the test scores, or at least make them known to Ms.G et al in order to prove that there wasn’t discrimination based solely on weight. They probably won’t though- sadly Google’s powerful enough to not give a flying flute about a little bad press that will probably not turn in to much.

      As for whether weight-based discrimination should be outlawed… I guess probably; isn’t there a load of evidence that skinny women earn more than larger ones? So it’s not just Google pulling this shiz. It seems odd that there’s no protection out there for those discriminated against on that one issue, whereas if they had ‘randomly’ asked seven black people to leave and kept 13 white people there would be a legal investigation about it.

      • Googled

        It’s stupid thinking over weight people don’t exercise . I am 10 kgs over weight and I have fasted , exercised , tried every diet under sun and weight won’t budge . I Water fasted 10 days whilst exercising and the loss was minimal . I’ve been skinny in my life and eaten more . At the moment going through tremendous stress . Stop discrimination full stop !!! Everyone has a right to the pursuit of happiness equally and the beautiful people will one day end up wrinkly and in nursing homes too . I found when I wasn’t as skinny as normal and as hot yes it’s harder to get promotions and also people perceive you differently . It’s so stupid because I’m same person but 10 kgs heavier and when I lose it which I’m desperately trying to you can believe I won’t care about the people that behaved differently . We have become too superficial as a society because of tv and media . We need to look to the soul or our society’s screwed .

    • Shevonne

      There is more discrimination against age than anything.

    • Meh

      “Do you think that this should be allowed? There are laws that protect against race and sex discrimination, after all, but not weight.”
      Because you are born within a race and with a sex, but not with an extra 200 – 300 pounds of lard ass.
      Yes, there are people big by design, but, sadly, those people are included by default in the category of fat bastards that chose to be like that and will have multiple heart attacks by the time they are 35 or something.
      It’s called collateral damage. It’s nasty, but this is what happens when so many people want to rival in size with whales: you can’t make the difference between big by design and fat bastards.

      • Kelley

        Wow. I think you are the perfect example this piece is trying to make.

        You spit out hate names and then use, “because it’s unhealthy” as an excuse.

    • chris

      I don’t think that workplaces discriminate against fat people ..if they work good there is no discrimination…Have a look at this collection of funny obese and overweight Fat People Pictures.

    • Kelley Kelley

      But it is discrimination as you are picking a group of people to single out.

      The fat are obvious. You can’ t necessarily see the smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts, people that own dangerous dogs, people that beat their kids, play with guns, have unsafe sex…etc. The fat are easy pickings.