Texas hospital bans overweight applicants - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Texas hospital bans overweight applicants

VICTORIA, TX (KFVS/CBS) - The Citizens Medical Center in Victoria, Texas is saying no to obese job applicants. The hospital initiated a policy requiring that potential employees have a Body Mass Index lower than 35.

According to The Texas Tribune, someone who is 5-foot-5 with a BMI of 35 would roughly be 210 pounds and someone who is 5-foot-10 would be 245 pounds.

The policy also says employees should have an appearance that is representative of the image of a healthcare professional without causing distraction.

"It's clearly known that when you talk about the hospitals self-insured health plan that we need to be as careful as we can to encourage healthy habits and behavior on the part of our employees but also we don't want to be bringing employees on the job force who have extra problems that then become a burden on the rest of the employees and result in their premiums being raised," said David Brown, hospital chief executive.

Employment lawyers say the policy isn't against the law. Texas, says employers cannot discriminate against employees because of their race, age or religion, but weight is not mentioned.

For people in the Heartland, the topic sparked a lot of discussion.

"I can see how when you think about insurance, the healthy people are easier to insure," said John Hendricks. "But, when you are talking about health care, the person working on you should be the best qualified. It shouldn't matter how short, or how small, or how tall you are."

"It's discrimination," said Loren Kenkel. "If you got a degree and you're qualified it shouldn't matter what you look like."

Others see it both ways.

"If your weight keeps your from being on your feet or doing your job then I can see it," said Shamira Gonzalez. "But otherwise it's insulting. If you're capable of doing a job your should get the job."

"It's a touchy subject," said Donna Etzolt. "You want a health care provider that's healthy. But you can be overweight and still be a good health care provider."

Personal trainers we spoke with tell us BMI is not always the best indicator of a person's health because it only deals with height and weight. It does not consider muscle mass.

In Cape Girardeau, both hospitals have rules involving employees and their health when it comes to smoking.

In January 2011, Saint Francis Medical Center implemented a policy stating it would no longer hire smokers.

The hospital does allow smoking on campus, but only in designated areas.

Southeast Hospital began making its campus smoke free back in 2006.

Employees, patients, and visitors are not allowed to smoke inside or outside the facility, including the parking lot.

Copyright 2012 KFVS/CBS. All rights reserved.

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