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Nail Salon Charges Obese More - Legally
A nail salon in Georgia added a five dollar surcharge to a customer's bill because she was obese, and it's all perfectly legal, and apparently part of a growing trend as we learn more about how much obesity costs everyone, says law professor
In the Georgia case the owner explained that he charged more because fat customers overstressed and even broke the chairs in his salon, and that they cost $2,500 to fix. After the customer complained about the obesity surcharge, he banned her from his salon.
Charging the obese more - and perhaps even banning them as customers - is generally perfectly legal, since only Michigan and a few local jurisdictions have laws which prohibit discrimination based upon weight or appearance. Also, notes Banzhaf, the Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA] generally provides protection only for individuals who are morbidly obese, and then only under limited circumstances.
This latest example comes at a time when the public apparently is less tolerant of the obese, and when the number of complaints of discrimination from overweight Americans has almost doubled over the past ten years. http://www.time.com/
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] says that obesity costs Americans as much as $150 billion a year, and Banzhaf notes that much of that cost is paid by the majority of Americans who are not obese in the form of higher taxes (for costs under Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs) as well as in inflated health insurance premiums. http://www.bloomberg.com/
Because of this, the government recently authorized health insurance companies to charge the obese as much as thirty percent more for coverage, and at least two states already charge their obese employees more for their health insurance. This is similar to the practice of about a dozen states which charge their employees who smoke more for their health insurance. http://www.pr-
"It may be fairer to require the obese to shoulder more of the huge costs their lifestyle now imposes on the majority of Americans who are not obese, and forcing them to do so could create a strong additional incentive for them to lose weight," suggests Banzhaf.
In the meantime, so long as discrimination in pricing or hiring doesn't involve factors like race or gender - which are immutable, and where there is usually no logical reason supporting the differential treatment - perhaps under our free enterprise system we should allow companies to make their own decisions, and not have them second guessed by the government, he argues.
PROFESSOR JOHN F. BANZHAF III
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
FELLOW, World Technology Network
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