Real-Time HR is a series of real questions we receive that are then answered by qualified HR experts in the field. We publish these questions and answers to our blog to give readers accurate, timely information about trending HR topics.

We have a hiring manager who doesn’t want to hire someone due to their weight. Can we reject their application for this reason?

Answer from Emily, MBA, SPHR:

While weight in and of itself is not a protected characteristic under federal law, making a hiring decision on this basis is inadvisable. Hiring decisions should be based on how well a candidate meets the qualifications outlined in the job description and applicable job posting. Disqualifying a candidate based on anything other than the job’s necessary qualifications increases the likelihood of a discrimination claim (in the case of weight, a disability discrimination claim is most likely).

We recommend that you ensure job descriptions are updated with the current skills, abilities, and education needed to perform the job, including the mental and physical requirements. You should also carefully go over the job description with candidates—including the day-to-day duties of the position—during the interview process so they fully understand what will be expected from them.

This Q&A does not constitute legal advice and does not address state or local law.

Emily’s robust experience overseeing HR in the non-profit, healthcare, and hospitality industries brings valuable knowledge to clients. She graduated college with degrees in Music and Entrepreneurial Business, and her passion for helping and working alongside people led her to the field of HR. In her free time, Emily enjoys traveling and home brewing.

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