Is Weight Watchers Biased Against the Overweight?

Lynae Remondino lost 118 lbs. and seven dress sizes, and she credits Weight Watchers with some of that. But Weight Watchers won't credit her efforts enough to hire her as a national trainer. Even though Remondino is an educator by profession and has taught thousands of people in hundreds of classes, she was told in no uncertain terms that her body mass index is too high -- in other words, she's just too darn heavy to work for the international weight loss giant.

This from the same people who hired Jennifer Hudson as their national spokesperson. "I can't help but question their integrity," Remondino says. "This is a company that is all about relating to people who are overweight and trying to help them -- they just choose not to hire those same people they've helped." Not even for behind-the-scenes work, apparently.

"All right, I admit it, I'm still a big girl, but I went from a size 24 to a size 12, which is a size smaller than the average American woman," Remondino notes. "It's not as if I'd be the national face of the company."

The position she applied for was not a public one in which she'd be working with clients; she'd be running training programs for Weight Watchers employees. Her duties would include teaching in classrooms, holding webinars, giving computer-based training and creating an upbeat, fun and motivating training environment. These are Remondino's proven strengths, and she has years of experience training people in customer service, sales and leadership.

But it appears that Weight Watchers doubted her ability to "provide professional leadership and serve as a positive role model." There was that one line in the list of key skills and behaviors that said, "Maintenance of weight within two pounds of the body mass index (BMI) healthy weight goal range." Remondino admits not having noticed that line when she applied for the job. Even if she had, since she's perfectly healthy -- works out nearly every other day and is the same weight as she was when she was 18 -- she didn't think it would make much of a difference.


A weighty question

Remondino's BMI turned out to make a huge difference, and ended up being the deal breaker. She had applied to a job posting online for a National Trainer at Weight Watchers, and when the hiring official saw her credentials, she was so excited she called her within half an hour of receiving her e-mail. "Things were going really well. I've taught classes on interview skills and have strong people skills, so I know when there's good chemistry," said Remondino, who noted that the interviewer even read her the current trainers' schedules, so she would know what hers would be like.

It was when the interviewer got to the BMI question when things headed south. Remondino questioned the legal grounds for asking this, but provided her height and weight so that the interviewer could calculate her BMI. "I've kept my weight off for five years and I'm in good shape, partially thanks to Weight Watchers. I thought the fact that I'd shared with the interviewer that they'd helped me lose 118 lbs. would only be in my favor."

Not so. At that point, Remondino was told she would not be able to continue the interview process, but that she should call back if she ever reached the Weight Watchers BMI standard. Remondino shared with the interviewer that she wished her luck in finding the right candidate, but that she would most likely never be that weight and was content as she was. "What's wrong with a healthy size 12?" she wonders.

"They didn't even meet me -- they couldn't see that I'm engaging, that I carry myself with confidence, that I shake hands and look people in the eye, and that I truly walk their walk."


Yes, but is it a legal matter?

Remondino has no intention of filing a lawsuit, and understands she would have no legal recourse even if she wanted to. But she's concerned about the message this experience is sending. "What are we teaching our children with this kind of behavior?" she asks. "You have to be a certain size and fit into a certain mold not just to be considered pretty, but to even get a job. This is the kind of behavior that encourages eating disorders."

What she thought was a blessing turned out to be a curse. Remondino had been laid off from her training position with a major corporation about a year prior, and was making ends meet with contract work, but had just learned that the project would be cut short. "I thought this Weight Watchers opportunity, no matter how it turned out, was a sign that everything was going to be all right."

Instead, she's been substantially demoralized. All that hard work and effort to lose the weight of "a whole other me" seems to have been for nothing. "All that talk of wanting to help people who are overweight doesn't seem very sincere when they penalize you for not being their idea of the perfect size," she says.

But, with her innate sense of optimism, she's not going to let this experience define her. She's turning down proffered legal advice and getting on with her job search. "I just hope Weight Watchers rethinks their policies after this," she says. She says she's sure they had no idea of the damage they could do, but hopes that now they are a bit more now.

You can hear Remondino talk about her experience on ClearChannel's Hot 99.5 in Washington, D.C.


Weight Watchers Weighs In

Weight Watchers provided the following statement to AOL Jobs:

Weight Watchers commends the success that Ms. Remondino has had in losing weight and adopting healthy habits, and she should feel great about her personal accomplishments. Since its inception almost 50 years ago, it has been a fundamental principle of Weight Watchers that its service providers (including those in positions to lead, support, train and motivate service providers and interact with Weight Watchers members) reflect the Weight Watchers philosophy by adopting a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy body weight. Weight Watchers defines a healthy body weight in accordance with current global health recommendations as a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the range of 20 to 25. For those individuals with a BMI between 25 and 27, Weight Watchers requires a doctor's note indicating that the individual is at a healthy weight. We sincerely regret if this was not fully conveyed or was not communicated in a supportive manner to Ms. Remondino.

Next: Shocking Truths About Beauty Bias at Work >>



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Robert

It DOES make sense that a corporation involved in weight loss would have such a requirement for hiring and continued employment, this posting just sounds like that much "Sour Grapes". A private company like Weight Watchers has the right to ensure their staff maintains a certain "look" no matter where in the company you work - if they didn't make it an accross the board standard they could be sued for not giving equal opportunity to all their employees. If you don't like it - don't get a job there - many other people are willing, qualified, and able to take the same job and are also willing work to fit the standards the company has put forth. If I go work for a gym somewhere, it's obvious they would want me to "look" like I use the gym. And about posting your "sour grapes story" online - well good luck on finding another company willing to hire you. Typically companies don't want employees that are "blogging and posting" any time they feel wronged by their employer. Let this be a lesson to any other job seekers out there - don't go posting all your failures online, because there are real people and real corporations that are going to read this stuff, and all it will do is make you a shoe-in for the unemployment line for years to come. Also it is Lynae's own fault for not reading the requirements of the job before applying for it, it's much more likely that she figured she could request them to "bend the rules" just for her, but that puts the company directly in line for a major law-suit from anyone at W.W. that has lost a position for not maintaining the same rule. You can't bend the rules for just one person, and anyway, all she would have needed was a doctors note explaining that her current weight was what was healthy for her. Good luck Lynae on your job search, just make sure you show all your prospective employers your AOL article to show them the real side of what they can expect from you.

June 21 2012 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Leslie Machacek

OMG - Today I was told told by 2 manager @ weightwatchers that they could not hire me if I weighed more than 146lbs. I weigh 154lbs. What a bunch of hypocrits. Weight Watchers, I wouldn't work for your company for a million dollars. The discriminatory hiring practices based on weight are an affront to the millioms of people that pay for your programs. The very same people that have made your company billions of dollars. SHAME SHAME

January 10 2011 at 5:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Maggie

I have lost 70 lbs. and have been maintaining this weight over the last two years through weight watchers. Having a BMI within your healthy weight range is required of all employees. I have a stocky build for a woman and I exercise so I am fairly muscular. I wear a size 6, and am only about 7 lbs below the top of my healthy weight range. I work with women who I would guess to be a size 12, but are in their healthy weight range and probably weigh less than me. My point is, I know that BMI is not a perfect measurement for health, but it is the most fair way(the only fair, unbiased way) to do it. I didn't just show up to a meeting and the leader say "well, you LOOK skinny now, so you're done." in order to become a lifetime member, I had to reach a goal weight within my healthy weight range. In my experience, weight watchers truely strives to help its members get healthy, not just thin, and the most reasonable way to quantify that is with BMI. And to me, the company needs to maintain this philosophy throughout the organization.

September 03 2010 at 10:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
manduhcash

she should sue them and maybe a law would come into place because of it. i mean i'm not hating WW fyi but this woman is qualified and to me looks awesome and i also agree with what that one other person said about how they would deff go to a personal trainer who actually WORKED OUT and lost the weight instead of a skinny person who probably eats burgers for lunch, and i would too. and there are tons of ppl who die every year who are "healthy" and they sometimes can't figure out why.. hmm i wonder why?? bcuz it never was about their weight it coulda been natural causes or certain drugs that were taken but vanished from the bodys blood stream before an autopsy was done. this story is so dumb and she's a sweetheart for not taking legal action. i hope she gets a wonderful job and if i owned a WW i'd let you work for me girl. take care !

September 02 2010 at 4:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
manduhcash

there is nothing wrong with this woman. and to that person who was making a point about how you can't refuse to hire someone who is emotionally unstable or whatever youre right on point cuz refusing someone cuz their ocd or have mental retardation is the same as refusing someone of a certain weight. what a shame this world has come to.. smh

September 02 2010 at 4:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Charlene Reagan

Weight watchers is a great program. If you have not been on it you can not judge or speak about how it works.
Every company has a standards.
Try to get a job in a clothing store where you can't wear the clothes.
They (WW) never forces anyone to join they are about health not just weight loss

September 01 2010 at 9:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
PJ

I honestly think she looks beautiful. I've lost 40 lbs myself and definitely consider her an inspiration. She is still working out and working on herself, she SHOULD be used as an inspiration to the professionals working at Weight Watchers. As far as BMI goes, I go to a personal trainer and he always says never to pay attention to the average BMI index because I weigh more than I should but I also carry a lot of muscle. If she's qualified for the position she should have gotten it. She looks fabulous, well put together, and she takes care of herself. It's not like she's a sloppy mess! She'll find something better than weight watchers that WILL appreciate her!

September 01 2010 at 9:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rachel

what about breast size and your BMI? My daughter's friend (age 15) has developed (naurally) extra large breasts but everywhere else she is a knockout? doesn't that throw off her BMI?

I am guessing this applicant would also not be hired if she had a slightly larger than some acceptable paramter NOSE!

This sounds like the Nazi Arian society. We have this phenomenon of beauty in sales positions especially when selling to men. Drug Reps are one example I know of personally. So I get it... Once you reach your target BMI you can go into one of these careers. That's what WW is... a recruiter for stewardesses, salepersons etc.

Here's what scares me most. I would not want a job where at any moment, no matter how loyal or capable I was an employee, I could be fired because I was more than two points off my BMI!It's not what did you do for me today, it's what did you look like today?

I think the reason she lost out was because she said she was happy at the weight she was. Is this how Curves came into existance. I don't know, but I would guess that they don't play by these rules. I agree that she would be an inspiration and empathetic to those trying to lose weight. I didn't know their philosophy was one of judgement and rejection. I thought it was support and guidance. I bet they have you work out near the end, so you will gain muscle, so you'll never reach the BMI and become a life member.

September 01 2010 at 8:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Still for WW

have been on WW for over a year....this is what I know. Size does not equal health...you can not make an intelligent decision that a size 12 is healthy. Don't any of you know anyone who is thin yet drops dead of heart disease? It's awesome that she's lost weight. Her BMI is an INDICATOR of where she should be. If she truly wanted the job, then get a note from the Doctor that says your weight is healthy for your size. That simple. I have health insurance from one of the largest HMO's in the country...they use height and weight as an INDICATOR and then they go from there....keep in mind that not all that we read is FACTUAL, it's just her opinion.

September 01 2010 at 8:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ryan

using BMI to make decisions on weight is a complete joke. I found this out from my doctor before a surgery (needed to find out how much anestesia needed)...I am 5'9 and 175 pounds so I have a BMI of 26, which is overweight. I called BS on that and the doctor said he never goes by it for a standard of proper weight/overweight because of how some bodies are shaped and built. I might be 175 pounds...but have about 10% body fat, a 42 inch chest and 32 waist. If she is still in shape and made such substantial weight loss, and very healthy...I do not see why she cannot have that job...they would be lucky to have her.

September 01 2010 at 8:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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