Great Moments in HR History: Fat Nurses


Way back when I was a kid in this industry, I was asked to hire a company nurse.

What does a company nurse do? At our organization, she cared for the Chairman of the Board. Gave him his medication. Kept him company. Official stuff.

The incumbent nurse was a bit of a looker. After complaints from some of the employees who tried to see the nurse for medical reasons and couldn’t get the service they needed, it was time to make a change.

I was told, “You find a new nurse, okay? There’s one thing that is critical, though. She can’t be fat.”

I wasn’t sure I heard that properly.

“Nope. Chairman hates fat women. And besides, you can’t have a fat nurse around here.”

Hm. Okay. Then my boss added, “Good luck with that. Most nurses are fat. And they smoke. Don’t hire a smoker, either.”

Whoa. What? Really?

Well it turns out that 33.8% of Americans are obese and also WHO THE HELL CARES? I can see the smoking thing — sorta — but obesity?

So I said, “I’m going to bring in everyone who is qualified. And I’m not going to pass on fat chicks.”

And my boss said, “Figures.”

Hm. Didn’t like that answer for 100 reasons.

It took us more than four months to fill that vacancy. We hired a thin woman. Sigh. She was qualified. I wanted to tell her why she got the job but I never did. And we used temps to fill the vacancy during the search. Qualified women who had chub rolls. They were never even considered for the job.

So the next time a hiring manager tells you he ‘doesn’t feel that a candidate is a good cultural fit’, remember that he could be talking about her ass or her back fat.

Because that still happens.

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