Overweight workers cost their bosses more in injury claims than their lean colleagues, suggests a study that found the heaviest employees had twice the rate of workers' compensation claims as their fit co-workers.
Obesity experts said they hope the study will convince employers to invest in programs to help fight obesity. One employment attorney warned companies that treating fat workers differently could lead to discrimination complaints.
Duke University researchers also found that the fattest workers had 13 times more lost workdays due to work-related injuries, and their medical claims for those injuries were seven times higher than their fit co-workers.
Overweight workers were more likely to have claims involving injuries to the back, wrist, arm, neck, shoulder, hip, knee and foot than other employees.
The findings were based on eight years of data from 11,728 people employed by Duke and its health system. Researchers found that workers with higher body mass indexes, or BMIs, had higher rates of workers' compensation claims.
The most obese workers — those with BMIs of 40 or higher — had the highest rates of claims and lost workdays. BMI is a measure of height and weight. A 6-foot, 300-pound person, for example, has a BMI of just over 40.