On February 9th, 2011 I began this series on Discrimination with some thoughts on the reduced productivity of smokers.

I also started the conversation with this:

What I'm hearing from Business Leaders all over the United States is, "I want to hire US workers but their costs are too high for me if I end up hiring people who aren't productive enough."

During the course of this series on Discrimination I'm going to say some things you won't agree with, may take offense with and that will border on legality.  However, until employers ARE allowed to "discriminate" based on these things, the value of the US Worker will continue to decline (on average) and the fiduciary pressure to hire off-shore talent will be greater.

If I haven't scared you away yet, here's the next installment:

Part 2: Obesity

About a month ago the Comptroller of the State of Texas tallied the business costs of obesity.  This is what they said, "Obesity is expensive for Texas employers, costing them $9.5 billion a year in worker health costs, absences, disability and reduced productivity."

That number is nearly 3 times what the same office calculated it to be in 2007.

The report, Gaining Costs, Losing Time, estimates that Texas employers paid $4 billion in direct health insurance costs in 2009. Indirect costs included $1.6 billion for obesity-related work absences, $3.5 billion for reduced productivity of obese workers, and $328.1 million for disabilities linked to obesity.

$3.5 BILLION for reduced productivity in Texas alone.

In 2006, Leade Health published a report entitled The Business Case for Weight/Obesity Management Using Health Coaching Interventions.

They called Obesity "The Number One Factor in Productivity Loss".  The paper goes on to cite the following statistics:

  • Medical costs for obese employees are 77 percent higher than for healthy weight employees; obesity-related disabilities cost employers up to $8,720 per claimant.
  • Obese workers have the highest prevalence of work limitations, with 6.9 percent experiencing such limitations compared to three percent among normal weight workers.
  • Obesity is estimated to account for 43% of all health care spending by U.S. businesses on coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis of the knee, and endometrial cancer combined.

Lastly, in August 2010 the Brookings Institute released a report that went even further than most people have ever been willing to go.  It's called Economic Impact of Obesity in US and it includes results like:

  1. There is a positive and statistically significant correlation between obesity and measures of absenteeism.  Specifically, at a North American division of Shell Oil Company, 3.73 additional days of work were lost per year for each obese employee relative to their normal-weight co-workers.
  2. A similar report referenced in this same white paper was able to prove that employees considered at risk for obesity were 1.23 times more likely to be in the ‘high-absenteeism’ group than those who were not.  That author (Durden) showed that obese workers were 194% more likely to use paid time off than their counterparts.
  3. In conclusion, the report found that the productivity losses to Shell Oil Company alone due to absenteeism effects of obesity were worth $11.2 million per year. This amount includes only the direct productivity costs of absenteeism (that the employee is paid while not at work); it does not account for any secondary effects on training, morale, or other network effects.

In closing and in defense of discrimination (especially based on the above facts): it is my opinion that obese workers should absolutely be considered inferior to their non-obese counterpart if the skill sets are on an equal level.

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