Does It Really Cost To Employ My Fat Ass? Or Does It Pay? (And Who Cares?)

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

I’m going to run with the ball I picked up at Lara Frater’s place about the CDC’s new clue-allergic LEAN Works program.

Lara says:

This new program is wrong on some many levels.
1. It’s discriminatory. Are jobs going to weigh people or demand intimate information from their personal life? Programs like this don’t encourage healthiness, they encourage companies to fire fat employees regardless of their health.
2. It’s filled with factual errors as well as lack of information. Many “Facts” have footnote numbers next to them, but I have yet to find those notes in the materials. The $117 billion “obesity” cost has always been a shaky number.
3. It encourages disordered eating. Healthy fat people may take it upon themselves to lose weight when they don’t really need too.

Those are good ones. I’d like to add a couple more to that list:

4. Inasfar as a fat person might have physical or mental health problems (remember, the latter go towards health care costs too!), it’s incredibly short-sighted to assume that said physical or mental health problems in a fat person are caused directly by their fat, or that weight loss — should that person go through the ordeal of trying to lose a great deal of weight and succeed — would result in a reduction in health care usage during time of employment by that person. (If, let’s say, I get to quit seeing an endocrinologist but wind up needing a psychiatrist instead, how is that a reduction in expense?) Which leads me right into number 5.

5. If you want everyone to have “perfect” numbers in everything, it’s going to cost you. “Perfect” numbers, inasfar as they’re even possible to create in someone who doesn’t replicate them naturally, usually mean pills. Pills require lab work. Multiple pills require even more lab work and multiple doctor visits — often from specialists, who are even more expensive than general practitioners — to monitor efficacy and safety. “Successful” dieting, when it does happen, often requires multiple medication adjustments and the addition of even more pills to suppress appetite. And the pills themselves are not without risk, either. Insulin sensitizers and statins and antihypertensives and appetite suppressing agents have side effects. Sometimes really freaking HUGE side effects. And if said weight loss plan involves taking people off their “fattening” antidepressants and neuroleptics, then what? Monkeying with everyone’s brain and body chemistry to get them slimmed down as much as possible, and with gorgeous blood pressure and blood sugar and lipid panel right up to the 65th-birthday sendoff? Is. Going. To. Be. Ex. Pen. Sive. Don’t kid yourselves, CDC, and don’t kid employers, either. If I’m going to monkey with my brain and body chemistry, I don’t want some bean-counting yutz at my company with no fucking medical degree overruling my doctors’ agreements with me about what I “should” be taking. They don’t know what they’re getting themselves into if they go that route. (Fortunately, my company hasn’t, and I doubt they will, for reasons I will elucidate below.)

6. And also inasfar as a fat person might have physical or mental health problems…hmm, let’s see, what’s that toothy monster hiding in the bushes? Oh, hello…it’s STRESS. Nice teeth ya got there. Now, what could possibly cause a fat person to be stressed out? Certainly not the relentless pressure from all corners since they were single-digit ages to slim down and being told they aren’t really hungry, that a few lettuce leaves and celery stalks would fill their stomachs just fine and if they craved anything more than that, they were just being greedy and selfish. Certainly not being overworked and underpaid for decades because they couldn’t fit into an Armani suit. Certainly not being refused friends and lovers and apartments and educations and pretty much anything else a person could be refused, just because they didn’t burn calories as fast as their peers did. Certainly not their own children being embarrassed to be seen with them and their spouses calling them ugly and either threatening to leave or just flat out dumping them for no other reason but weight. Certainly not their own families of origin constantly criticizing them for their greedy appetites. Noooo, that doesn’t take a toll on people’s physical or mental health at all. Nobody ever needs serious medical attention because of stuff like that. Yeah. Ha. Ha ha ha. (And speaking of “Ha ha ha,” how is it the Blanche DuBoises of the world are the ones who “need” psychiatrists, while the Stanley Kowalskis just go right on screwing around with people with no conscience?)

Oh, and 7. DIETS DON’T WORK. They didn’t work in 1909, and they don’t work now. A diet actually working, without any further toll in physical or mental health to the dieter, is a fluke. “Fluke” does not mean “never ever happens,” but it does mean “don’t hold your breath.” And guess what — the CDC’s own data indicate that only 2% of Americans in the “normal” BMI range were “obese” 10 years earlier, and that includes people who lost weight without trying. Do they not even hear themselves?

It’s always fascinating to see people who don’t actually have to work for a living (that is, have their schedules completely governed by an employer with very limited flexibility) snotting off on the alleged costliness of those of us who do. Let me tell you something. Our employers, for the most part, are getting us cheap. Really. Most of us have at-will employment — that is, they can let us go any time they feel like it and not have to tell us why. You can’t even prove weight-based discrimination (or for that matter, any other kind) if nobody actually says to you, “Go home and take your undesirable-for-this-reason ass with you.” And they get away with underpaying us, too, because they know that for many of us, our opportunities are limited, especially once we get up over 40. (Anyone care to compare the relative health-care expenses of affluent thin people and affluent fatasses, versus nonaffluent thin and fat? No? My ears, they hurt from the cricket noises.)

They want to replace us all with thin people to save money? Good luck with that. Thin people are going to demand higher salaries and turn over faster voluntarily, and training new people is costly. And thin, young, conventionally attractive, well educated, currently able people aren’t going to accept nearly as much shit from management as fatties (and older people, and PWD, and people with less education) do. Why should they? They can go somewhere else if they don’t get respect where they are. And “desirable” employees have babies and get sick and need to see psychiatrists, too — so, so much for the low-maintenance thing. Humans are expensive, even extremely compliant ones. I’m sure they’d all love to have an all-robotic work force if they could, only they’d still have to have people around to fix the robots. So inconvenient.

In my particular line of work, being hired remotely and working remotely, without your boss ever laying eyes on you, is industry standard. My company alone has thousands of remote employees, and there are multiple others like it. There’s a reason they don’t install “cams” on all our computers and survey all our activities night and day — it would cost too much. Can you imagine? Having to babysit thousands of working adults around the clock (it’s also a 24/7/365 line of work), every single day? It would be ridiculous. I’m sure they’d love to know what we’re all up to when we’re on the clock. I’m sure they’d love to know about the quick sex we’re having and the chin hairs we’re tweezing and what unsavory political activities we might be participating in, and why we think we can eat Frosted Mini-Wheats with a spoon and type at the same time…but it’s easier for them not to know. It’s not easy to find people who can do what we do with the required speed and accuracy. Two years of experience is usually necessary to land a job like this, and believe me, you want that experience, because you’re going to be paid by the line and that means being able to make out mumble-mouthed diction and fuzzy cell-phone-speaker transmission and sixties that sound like fifties even on a noise-cancelling headset without having to look up every other word, or you’re not going to be paid even minimum wage.

It’s probably not much of a stretch — even without having met a single one of my fellow remote employees ever — to assume that my line of work employs a lot of old people, a lot of fat people, and a lot of people with disabilities, in various combinations of the three. Because thin young hipsters, for the most part, don’t want these jobs. They don’t pay enough. They make you work weekends and holidays. There’s no prestige. And it’s not the most interesting work, frankly, it’s very repetitive. Yeah, but I can stick my finger into any orifice I want, any time I want, and nobody will know! I’m allowed naps! I say gooshy things to my pets, the same thing every single night, and they can sit in my lap while I work! Oh yeah…and my boss doesn’t have to know about every single little piddly-shit health issue I might have either, unless it keeps me from doing my job. Having a shit attack or a crying jag? No problem. Nobody has to know. It’s a beautiful thing.

If they don’t care if I fart, I can only imagine what a pain in the ass it would be for them to have to monitor all our farts, and whatever else is going on in our bodies and brains, to Save Health Care Money. If the CDC brainiacs want me to use up less health care, physical AND mental, what they need to do is build a time machine that will go back forty-cough years, and tell everyone I ever came in contact with that I’m fucking autistic and they should let up on me, and also that I have PCOS and that’s why I’m so hungry and hairy. Also, HIPAA violations anyone? It’s currently illegal in America for your company or anyone else to go nosing around in your medical records without your permission. My company is in the health care business. They know that. I’m pretty well convinced that that’s another reason they’re not going there. Know what else is expensive? Lawsuits.

I may complain about my job, but I think I’m healthier in this job than I would be if I had to work in an office. Getting to decide for myself when I need a break, instead of my employer unilaterally making that decision, makes me healthier. Not having to disclose my autism unless I choose to do so (I haven’t had much luck hiding the fact that I’m “different” otherwise) makes me healthier. Getting to have home-cooked food for virtually every meal, and so does eating it when I’m hungry, not when the clock says it’s time. All those things are tremendous stress reducers. For someone who’s not in a chattering-class occupation, I get treated pretty well. I’ve had other jobs and know it could be much, much worse. And yes, I’m a big fatty fatass who goes to therapy every other week and the psychiatrist every few months and just had a big problem with my back and leg requiring physical therapy. Think that’s expensive? Imagine what deliberately setting out to drive me bonkers might cost.

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16 Responses to “Does It Really Cost To Employ My Fat Ass? Or Does It Pay? (And Who Cares?)”

  1. lilacsigil Says:

    Let’s take away all the antidepressants, anti-psychotics and oral contraceptives, then I’m sure we’ll all be thinner. Or maybe I could just take many times my dose of thyroxin? That would make me thinner. Hella-crazier and probably dead, but that’s even cheaper!

    I’m so glad that healthcare in my country doesn’t depend on employment.

  2. WellRoundedType2 Says:

    So, a little insight here on what they MEANT to do with this.

    I know what they were aiming to do. It wasn’t to have companies fire fat workers. It was to encourage employers to engage in (untested, unproven and potentially dangerous) weight loss interventions, or weight gain prevention interventions. However, LEAN Works is what happens when you don’t INVOLVE THE PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO IMPACT IN PLANNING. Public Health 101.

    Unfortunately for me, this is very close to home for me, professionally. Once upon a time, I wanted to work for CDC, thinking I could affect change from the inside. Yes, I’m naive. But this comes from my training in community health education, and it was drilled into me that INVOLVING THE PEOPLE YOU THINK ARE AFFECTED BY THE PROBLEM is step one. Steps, 2-10 also. This helps to see if, you know, everyone is seeing the problem the same way. Also, you know, helps suss out the unintended consequences, like, increasing discrimination and stigma, thereby making health worse.
    The biggest problem I see is that CDC (or at least this arm of it) has accepted that weight is a proxy for health. If improving the health of the workforce was the goal, there is no way this would have gone forward, because it so clearly has a negative impact on overall health of employees.
    I went into public health because I felt protective (call me paternalistic, I can take it) of fat people — and wanted to learn what I could do to help fat people be healthier (if they chose to be). I fight hard to keep stigma and discrimination out of the work that I do, and it takes a personal toll.
    Thank you for this in-depth analysis, Meowser.
    Love ya,
    WRT2

  3. MamaD Says:

    @lilacsigil said: I’m so glad that healthcare in my country doesn’t depend on employment.

    This is a program being promoted by the CDC, an arm of the U.S. federal government. It’s using it’s power to influence employers. Trust me, the power of the CDC and the Feds is far greater than that of my own employer. This is why when I see a federalized health insurance program being touted as a solution to health care discrimination towards fat folk, I want to scream. I know a lot of people in the FA movement disagree with me on that one. But 25 years as a health care provider in the U.S. has convinced me that a government-mandated insurance program will turn around and bite us all.

  4. Twistie Says:

    Also it’s a well-known sound bite that thin people don’t get any of the icky diseases that fat people do. Yeah. That’s why Mr. Twistie’s thin co-worker shares his difficulties with Type II diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

    Oh wait, that doesn’t actually make sense, does it?

    It just doesn’t take into consideration that any disease or any injury can strike nearly any person at any time. Okay, I’m guessing there won’t be a lot of people with penises lining up for hysterectomies, but really, most ailments can hit ANYONE. They are not prejudiced.

    That means that even if every person in an office is thin, there are still going to be diabetics and people battling depression and people with heart diseases and folks who are fighting every kind of cancer under the sun.

    Assuming that all health consequences stem from fat is hurting us all.

  5. wriggles Says:

    Yes 5 and 6, things they just never take into account, long term dieting, and in my case trying to diet causes chronic stress, mental illness- depression, hallucinations, psychosis (remember Stunkard) etc, and all the eating disorders, which themselves mentally unbalance as a consequence.

    I don’t see how they can involve fat people in health programmes, they would have to give up the whole obesity shebang and that is an article of faith they’ve bound themselves to.

  6. Godless Heathen Says:

    What always gets me about the cost of insuring employees is that it assumes that all employees who qualify for their employer’s health care make enough money to take advantage of it. Even coverage through your employer can cost you a whopping amount out of your paycheck every month, an amount you may not be able to part with if your spouse isn’t similarly well paid, or you have no spouse and several dependents. The actual cost of ensuring employees is usually a lot lower than the employer has estimated.

  7. Lyn Says:

    Add to this the fact that I can be denied health insurance because I am obese. Insurance companies routinely screen for weight when approving or denying coverage… and I was only about 10 pounds below the limit last time I’d applied. Now, I wouldn’t qualify. I guess if I lose 20 pounds, they figure I will suddenly be lower risk.

  8. Rachel Says:

    What an asinine waste of tax dollars. If employers want to improve the overall health of their workers, they should allow for longer vacations and not impose fascist clock restrictions on their workers. Just an extra week of paid vacation ALONE would probably reduce the stress level of any given employee, fat or thin. Just blaming the fatties for workplace unproductivity? Hoo boy that’s rich! That’s like blaming only the 20-somethings on your workforce for wasting company time on Facebook; when a LOT of people in varying ages can intentionally and unintentionally waste company time. This is especially deplorable in the times we’re living in now, where finding and keeping a job is enough of a pain in the ass without having to worry about a potential boss buying into this “fat employees cost more” BS.

  9. Kristie Says:

    I did a mental inventory of the people I work with and their health issues that are common knowledge, and what I would guess is their relative expensiveness. I consider my health expenditures pretty average. I have little faith in western medicine these days, and only go when I have no other choice. I have a lot of orthopedic issues, but am rarely sick. The people who have been sickest or had the most problems (that I know of) are, in the great majority, thin folks. Indeed, they are among the thinnest folks there. It’s a load of bull that fat folks are costing companies huge money in health costs. It’s actually sick people, and their sick kids, that are costing companies the most. And if those folks think they’re immune, just wait…they’ll be on the chopping block right after the fatties.

  10. Meowser Says:

    From what I gather, the three things that make group insurance killer expensive are 1) hospitalizations; 2) surgeries; 3) chemotherapy regimes for cancer. Outpatient doctor visits and routine meds are relatively piddly expenses.

    Do they really think only fat people ever need hospitalizations, surgeries, or chemo? Bear in mind that in many cases people don’t insure just themselves, they also insure their partners and/or children. The more people who are in the insurance group, the greater the likelihood that someone on that plan is going to need extremely expensive treatment one day, no matter what they weigh or what their habits are. Even if, against all odds, they could actually get all employees to be in perfect enough health not to need any of those things…are they also going to extend their be-a-goody-goody-slim-down-and-take-this-pill-or-else edict to every single person that employee covers? Really?? Talk about not knowing what you’re getting into!

    And here’s the thing. Our government wants to save money AND make people live as long as possible. The two aims are incompatible. The longer you live, the greater the chance of needing hospitalization or surgery, or contracting cancer. End of life care is expensive whether you die at age 50 or age 100. And no, old people don’t necessarily blow off those treatments because they’ve “lived long enough,” either. Most of the time, they at least take palliative treatment for cancer, and that’s still some expensive pile of chemicals.

  11. Tante Terri Says:

    Not only will this be backed by the diet industry, the lawyers will love it — it is lawsuit heaven.

    Not only will you have the wrongful termination lawsuits. You will have all kinds of discrimination lawsuits because guess who tend to be the fat and unable to lose that fat – old women – two protected groups!

    Then can you spell worker’s compensation? So I take whatever new pills are being pushed today and when I develop the side effects – bingo – worker’s comp.

    I am taking part in an exercise program sponsored by my employer to lose weight – I get injured – worker’s comp!

    In fact, you could possibly argue anything you do to try to lose weight because your work is forcing you to – can lead to a worker’s comp claim – if only for the added stress.

    Whoo-hoo – you want to talk about costing the employer money!

  12. Haze Says:

    Great article to start.

    I would love to know whom you work for? I am an educated person but disabilities make it hard for me to work in a regular office.

    I’d love to hear or know about industries that hire people to telecommute and don’t discriminate against fat women. There are so many fake ads out there, it’s hard to see who is on the level.
    Thanks!

  13. meowser Says:

    Haze, if you want to know more about my industry, please email me.

  14. What Does Health Care Reform Really Mean to American Fatasses? Part One In A Series « fat fu Says:

    […] Comments brilliantmindbrokenb… on OK, D00d Nation, THIS Is What …meowser on Does It Really Cost To Employ …Haze on Does It Really Cost To Employ […]

  15. Godless Heathen Says:

    Tante Terri, you’d think that, but a wrongful termination lawsuit is a very hard thing to bring in the US. A large number of states have “at will” or “right to work” laws which mean the employer can fire anyone, at any time, for any reason. In order to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit in those cases, you need explicit ironclad evidence of discrimination, which most employers are very careful not to provide. Additionally, weight only has protection in I think three states as something you can’t discriminate for.

    Pretty much the high unemployment rate coupled with limited worker protections means that employers feel entirely justified in discriminating against fat workers. We’re essentially expendable with no real legal recourse. Ah, the American dream.

  16. Tante Terri Says:

    I know all about at-will employment. However, I guess my view is skewed in that I live in California – which is a native American word for “land of way too many attorneys”.

    In my post, I am not saying you would sue for wrongful termination based on weight protection (which as you say, unfortunately, is not commonplace) but under another protected class – age or gender discrimination – very protected; and we have lawyers aplenty who wouldn’t mind taking it on.

    Sadly, this would not help fat folks who are not part of a protected class of people; and sadly, it often is not economically feasible to sue the bastards.


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