Too Fat to Work as a Health Professional?

Friday, April 06, 2012

Citizens Medical Center is, by most measures, a respected and respectable hospital. A non-profit, their mission is to serve their community of South Texas. And in their mission, they’ve been mostly successful, appearing on Thomas Reuters’ list of top 100 American hospitals three times over the past decade. 

And yet, the Victoria, Texas hospital has people across the country outraged. The reason: a hiring policy they instituted last year. In short, the policy requires potential employees to have a body mass index below 35. This means that a man who is 5-foot-10 and 245 pounds would not meet the hospital’s hiring requirements.

David Scher is an employment attorney with the Employment Law Group. He’s worked extensively on discrimination cases throughout the country. He joins us from California, where he’s vacationing with his family. Art Caplan is a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania who regularly appears on the show.


Dr. Art Caplan and David Scher

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [6]


"BMI is not a valid indicator of an individual's health or obesity. Based on their criterion most athletes would not be able to work at the hospital. "

5'10 245 is a degree of muscle weight for yer height that a lot of NFL linebackers don't reach. "Most athletes" aren't quite there.

I like how militaries often handle it: If you aren't within BMI, then you have to be within body fat percentage standards.

Sep. 24 2012 03:40 AM
Mohsen from Stillwater, OK

I would expect the takeaway invite a male guest or someone from Agusta too, in order to have some counter arguments.

Apr. 06 2012 11:21 AM

Using the BMI is an appalling misapplication of statistics. The person who invented the BMI applied it to characterize large populations and explicitly stated that it was inappropriate to apply to individuals. This is because it fails to account for body density; hence, athletic, healthy, muscular people with dense bones often have BMI's. A much more accurate - and fairer - metric is body fat percent. Even just using waist size is a more accurate metric. As a health-based institution this hospital should know better.

Apr. 06 2012 10:07 AM
Terry Dibble from Rochester, Michigan

BMI is not a valid indicator of an individual's health or obesity. Based on their criterion most athletes would not be able to work at the hospital. They would be better to determine job related test to determine ability to work at a particular job.

Apr. 06 2012 10:04 AM

"Looks" and "physical impression" are legitimate essential elements of many jobs, not only those on television. Imagine an exotic dance club that was required to hire obese dancers. Probably there would not be enough returning customers to keep the club in business. Or physical trainers at your gym who were obese... more than likely you are going to skip that gym and go hire a personal trainer who is in good shape. This happens all the time in business and rightfully so. Ever notice that in many trendy restaurants and bars there are only good looking employees? This is because of public expectations- people associate good looks with a good company, hospital, bar, restaurant, etc. So a good lawyer would argue that the public perception of a company is essential to its success and physique of it's employees are essential in providing the required public perception. In the meantime, companies would be wise to turn down applicants without giving a reason why.


Apr. 06 2012 10:03 AM

What percentage of people who are 5ft 10in and weigh 245 lb are NOT obese? And, how would a person of this weight and height prove that they are not obese? What other standards besides BMI could be used to determine physical fitness?

Apr. 06 2012 07:22 AM

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