NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Overweight women get the short end of the stick in the labor market.

That's what a new study from Vanderbilt University found. It said obese women are more likely to work in lower-paying and more physically demanding jobs, compared to average size women and men -- even obese men.

“Starting when a woman becomes overweight, she is increasingly less likely to work in a personal interaction or personal communication occupation,” says Jennifer Shinall, assistant professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School and author of the paper "Occupational Characteristics and the Obesity Wage Penalty."


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“And the heaviest women in the labor market are the least likely individuals to work in personal interaction occupations,” she added.

The study points to an increase in obese women working in physically strenuous jobs, which Shinall describes as healthcare support jobs, such as nurse’s aids and jobs in the food preparation and childcare spaces.

“As a woman becomes heavier, she is actually more likely to work in a physical activity occupation,” Shinall adds. “So morbidly obese women are the most likely to work in a physically demanding occupation.”

Obese men, on the other hand, don’t face this problem, the study says. They earn just as much as average size men, regardless of their career field.

Plus, there is growing debate over whether or not obese individuals are classified as disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“What seems to be going on in the labor market may be more of a sex discrimination issue that could be tied to Title VII,” she adds.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans sex discrimination in the workforce. She says the ADA may not be the proper justification, as overweight women are finding certain types of jobs, such as the aforementioned physically demanding ones.

- Written by Scott Gamm for MainStreet. Gamm is author of MORE MONEY, PLEASE.