"At first, I was mad when I thought I would be charged $30 for being overweight," said Courtney Jackson, 28, a customer service representative at Clarian. "But when I found out it was going to be broken into segments – like just $10 for being overweight – it sounded better."
Jackson said she was going to try to slim down before the plan took effect. "If I still have weight to lose when it starts," she said, "I'll deserve to pay the $10."
Employers are getting serious about penalizing workers "because they've run out of other options," said Joe Marlowe, senior vice president at Aon Consulting, a national benefits consulting firm.That's right, we brought this war on oursleves, so we have to pay the price. The wages of sin are your, uh, garnished wages. Others aren't so sure it's a good idea:
"It's reprehensible to punish and emasculate someone for having a disease like obesity," said Walter Lindstrom, director of the Obesity Law and Advocacy Center in Chula Vista, Calif. "Anyone who penalizes workers for being overweight should brace themselves for a backlash."
Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, a Princeton, N.J.-based employee rights group, called the trend "a very dangerous road that could lead to employers controlling everything we do in our private lives."
"To penalize for things that are beyond some people's control is just wrong," Maltby said. "Some people are fat because that's how God made them."Sure, some people are fat because they're gluttons. But there's more at work here. Besides drugs and genetics, the modern workplace is full of stress, workers often spend their days and nights sitting in cubicles, managers cajole and bribe employees with treats ("management by sheet cake"). Americans are sleeping less, many aren't taking vacations. They work in toxic offices with poor air and climate control. They're fed sugar and caffeine to keep going. They have to commute miles by car to work. If it's OK to penalize the modern worker for being overweight, what's next? Do we let mining companies tax miners if they get black lung disease? The only way this makes sense is if you see America's massive weight gain as a huge collapse of moral fiber. You certainly can't blame it on Starbucks, or Microsoft, or even the fact that we the American taxpayers are forced to heavily subsidize the High Fructose Corn Syrup industry. It's the icky fallibility of the overweight that's holding America back. If taxing fat people isn't enough, how about stigmatizing them as having "fat cooties." Ew. Don't catch 'em. A new study caused the media to ask the question: "Is obesity contagious?" Of course, the next question after that is, "If it is, why aren't fat people locked up like that weird TB guy?" The study referred to indicates that there is some connection between gaining weight and the people you know. In other words, habits can spread through social networks. I'm not sure why this is news. If you've ever had a Jewish or Italian mother, or been in the company coffee room, or attended a family picnic in Ohio where all salads are made of Jell-O, you'd already know that people who eat together grow together. I guess what the scientists have discovered is that since we're all connected in a web of relations and "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" is not about Kevin so much as bacon, and lots of it. Look, the research is interesting, but the play in the press focuses on the idea that fat could spread like Ebola. I overheard someone talking about the study, and she seemed to think you could get fat just sitting next to a fat person, like they give off molecules that might stick to you. In the war against obesity, if a fat tax doesn't work, perhaps shunning will. There are a few people who question the whole idea of an obesity epidemic. Paul Campos has written a book called The Obesity Myth. And there's an Irish sociologist who believes we're "pathologizing" fat and that the body mass index (BMI) used to determine obesity is wrong and culturally and racially biased. An index that says that George Clooney (and Brad Pitt and Matt Damon) are overweight, which the BMI does, has got to be screwy. I can tell you this: If all fat people were fat like the stars of Oceans 13, the war on obesity would be over. Today. Since that won't happen, the fat quagmire goes on, and Seattle's high-calorie economy will continue to boom.
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