[Cleveland Clinic president and CEO Dr. Delos M. Cosgrove, a former cardiac surgeon] has even taken on the most intractable driver of American health-care costs: Americans. Having already banned the hiring of smokers (a dictate enforced by urine tests for nicotine), Cosgrove declared this year that if it weren't illegal under federal law, he would refuse to hire fat people as well. The resulting outcry led him to apologize for "hurtful" comments. But he has not backed down from his belief that obesity is a failure of willpower, which can be attacked by the same weapons used to combat smoking: public education, economic incentives, and sheer exhortation.
My thoughts come from the perspective of a former fitness-for-duty evaluator and drug testing officer (Medical Review Officer) for the regional transit authority in a very large city, and a hiring manager in the hospital and pharmaceutical sectors. I find a profoundly discriminatory statement that a hospital CEO would "refuse to hire fat people" if he could get away with it, and that he refuses to hire smokers and forces people (presumably candidates) to take a urine nicotine test, totalitarian and highly abhorrent.
Nothing about smoking or obesity [except in very specialized job situations for the latter] makes a person unfit to work in a hospital.
This attitude is exactly why we have federal anti-discrimination laws, to protect people from biased autocrats like this.
I should add that talent apparently is irrelevant to this autocrat; if a person is overweight, this self-righteous SOB would send an applicant out the door. So much for talent management if he could get his way.
One wonders if he would also send current employees who are overweight out the door - if he could get away with it.
A May 2008 USA Today article entitled "Weight discrimination could be as common as racial bias" here made the point that:
Weight discrimination, especially against women, is increasing in U.S. society and is almost as common as racial discrimination, two studies suggest.
Reported discrimination based on weight has increased 66% in the past decade, up from about 7% to 12% of U.S. adults, says one study, in the journal Obesity. The other study, in the International Journal of Obesity, says such discrimination is common in both institutional and interpersonal situations — and in some cases is even more prevalent than rates of discrimination based on gender and race. (About 17% of men and 9% of women reported race discrimination.)
Among severely obese people, about 28% of men and 45% of women said they have experienced discrimination because of their weight.
"Weight discrimination is a very serious social problem that we need to pay attention to," says Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, a co-author of both studies.
... Institutional discrimination involved health care, education or workplace situations, such as cases in which people said they were fired, denied a job or a promotion because of their weight. Interpersonal discrimination focused on insults, abuse and harassment from others.
This raises several questions:
- The CEO of an organization sets the tone. What does such a statement about "fat people" do to staff morale?
- As a result of this CEO's stated preferences, is there subtle or covert discrimination against overweight employees at the Cleveland Clinic, preventing promotions and/or causing or contributing to situations of constructive discharge?
- Is there subtle or covert hiring discrimination against overweight candidates, with the hiring managers knowing the CEO's expressed views?
- One also wonders if this CEO has similar attitudes towards gays, minorities, and people with physical and emotional disorders that also would not affect their ability to perform their jobs.
- How well does the Cleveland Clinic respect other aspects of diversity considerations in its hiring, firing, and job promotion practices?
- What kind of care and quality of staff interactions do overweight people receive/experience at the Cleveland Clinic?
This CEO will not be "curing healthcare" any time soon IMO, since a primary consideration is compassion. He seems somewhat deficient in that attribute.
He also seems deficient in the characteristic known as business wisdom, especially in an era of competition and trigger-finger litigation.
His statement could be used by competitors to steer people away from the Cleveland Clinic and its affiliates. It could very likely also be used in support of discrimination lawsuits against the Cleveland Clinic and its affiliates by current, former, and potential employees (as well as by overweight patients, conceivably) which can be very expensive and damaging to an organization's reputation.
In addition to all of the problems exhibited by healthcare leaders as covered on this blog, I add a new one apropos to this CEO's cerebral anatomy: fathead.