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The Pound Penalty continued...

"Four and a half percent may not sound like a lot, but over the course of a career it can really add up," Baum says. "If you earn $50,000 on an annual basis, that is $2,250. If you multiply that over a 40-year career, that's almost $100,000."

The researchers attempted to identify other explanations for why overweight workers make less. In their analysis the discrepancy could not be explained by lower productivity or customer discrimination. But there was some evidence that obese employees were less likely to seek training to further their careers.

The findings echo those of an analysis combining 29 studies of employment discrimination compiled by Western Michigan University management professor Mark Roehling, PhD.

Roehling tells WebMD that weight appears to be more consistently associated with economic discrimination than any other factor, including race, gender, and age.

"The evidence suggests that weight has a stronger and more consistently negative impact on earnings than anything else," he says. "And the effect was consistently greater for women than for men."

Moving On

While Misty Watts' case seems particularly egregious, Ruby Tuesday continues to insist in press releases that she was not fired for being fat. But company spokesmen have not specified another reason and the 28-year-old mom says she was offered her job back after she told her story on ABC's Good Morning America in October.

She declined and now works at Shell's Bar-B-Q in Hickory, N.C.

"[Ruby Tuesday] keeps saying that my weight was not the reason, but you don't fire someone for cause three days after they are named "Employee of the Month," she says. "They say they can't say why for employee confidentiality reasons, but I went on national television and told them to tell the world why. They also said they would publicly apologize, but they didn't."

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