I want to ban my staff from debating who should be eligible for a Covid vaccine

A reader writes:

I am a senior manager at work. I won’t say where I work/what field/geography, but my team has been back at the office (with precautions) since the fall.

My state permits those with a BMI of >30 to get vaccines early, which means that many on my team are eligible. This is a great thing, and more shots in more arms helps us ALL. I have approved full days for vaccinations and I’ve also gone to bat (and won!) for days off for people volunteering at vaccination sites.

I have been very, very, VERY clear that I do not need to know why a particular person is eligible before approving time off for vaccination. In fact, per directive from legal, managers are not only not supposed to ask, but we are to actively stop staff from telling managers and above about eligibility (too much risk for the company). Despite this, there is naturally talk amongst the office about vaccination/who is eligible/where there are appointments/etc.

Since the BMI eligibility was introduced, it’s gotten fairly, well, nasty. One staff (I’ll call Bill) has complained loudly about “fatties getting vaxxed in front of people who REALLY need it” and glares at folks leaving to get vaccinated. (I shut him down immediately, but I can’t really stop him from glaring.) Other staff loudly say stuff like “If I had a normal BMI, I’d look emaciated/sick/be in the hospital” which is fine, but it’s gotten to the point where I hear stuff like that constantly. And I do mean constantly. My lovely wife (I’m a woman, too, if it matters) has a normal BMI and she looks beautiful to me, so it’s especially weird hearing that she is apparently gaunt, ugly and skeletal from people who were perfectly friendly to her at zoom happy hours and things. I’m sure that the slimmer people in the office feel the same way.

I do get it, this stuff is very sensitive, and for what it’s worth my BMI is certainly not perfect (I miss the cut off by .8 or something like that). But I just can’t deal with monitoring the Bills of the world AND keep hearing about how the BMI is bullshit and everyone <25 needs a tube in their nose or something AND do my job.

So I introduced a rule: no one is allowed to discuss eligibility. Period, at all. Some people complained because they aren’t able to share vaccine info easily or quickly. I do think that is important, But I can’t take anymore. Should I go back to allowing eligibility questions?

I’d rather you shut down comments on weight — one’s own weight, other people’s weight, shut it all down, period.

“The comments about people’e eligibility have been insensitive, particularly around weight, so I’m shutting it all down” isn’t the worst move in the world. But the problem isn’t really the eligibility discussions. It’s the judginess around weight. That’s what you should shut down.

And lord knows, if you extended that ban to include diet talk too, you would be doing your team a great favor if it stopped them from having to hear “should you really be eating that, Clarence?” and “do you know what’s in that?” and “you’re so skinny, eat a sandwich” and all the other unsolicited food comments our weight-obsessed culture has somehow decided are okay.

If nothing else, though, you at least need to have a serious talk with Bill; you can indeed stop him from glaring, and you should.

While we’re on the topic, here’s a PSA: People should stop asking why someone else qualified for vaccination! Few people would ask colleagues for a rundown of their health conditions, but much of the time that’s what this question translates to.

{ 315 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi all. Please stick to constructive advice in your comments here. Debates about what you think is a healthy weight or healthy body are off-topic and will be removed. Additionally, the problems with BMI have been well noted below, so let’s move on from that as well and stick to advice for the letter-writer.

  2. I should really pick a name*

    I think if Bill is using that language, someone needs to have a serious talk with Bill.

      1. Not a Blossom*

        She says she can’t do anything about the glaring, but if it’s that noticeable, I’m going to disagree. She can and should say something.

        1. Threeve*

          And odds are he’s going to whine that he can’t control his face, because people like that do. But the answer can and should be “if you can’t keep a neutral expression, I expect you to turn away.”

          (Alternately: “or stick your face in a drawer until you can chill out, you petty jackass.”)

    1. Sherm*

      Yeah, at a former workplace, a guy remarked that many of the admins were overweight — within hearing distance of some of the admins. That led to a Serious Discussion from HR and sensitivity training. And that was without derogatory language being used. So, more can be done about Bill, and maybe should.

  3. Charlotte Lucas*

    Where I live, primary caregivers (paid & nonpaid) can be eligible, so it might not even be about the person being vaccinated, but a friend or family member.

    1. Presea*

      Yes. Where I live, high BMI will be only one of a wide variety of health conditions that will qualify you for the vaccine; the majority of said health conditions would be invisible to others. Someone could be higher BMI and /also/ have diabetes, COPD, cancer, asthma… and you can be lower/mid BMI and have any of those conditions. Like Alison says above, you really can’t know why someone qualifies, and you probably shouldn’t ask.

      1. Artemesia*

        And people should not have to discuss their health issues in the workplace; this is one of the levers to shut it down completely. as in ‘There are many health issues that people wish to keep private and we need to honor that and not make remarks about health issue in the workplace. From now one, we need to stop discussing COVID eligibility, weight, health situations completely.’ And then the first time you see a glare or stomp or snort or comment, take that person aside and make it clear they are violating a workplace rule.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        In our state ‘smoking’ (defined as ‘has smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime’) is one of the criteria, in addition to all the conditions listed. Also invisible, and can be years in the past.

        I feel for Bill and anyone else who’s not level 4, I am 4 and it’s been *haaaard* to see my sister / friends / coworkers in critical infrastructure jobs (or just lucky, like a friend who picked up a prescription at a time they had extra doses) get done and not jump in myself (I can make the case for 3 under my job, but it would have been a stretch so I didn’t), and only react positively. It was easier when it was just our housemate, the nurse. But about 1/3 of my friends have been jabbed now, and it’s getting harder to stay positive with the new ones.

        But we’re grownups, and need to behave like decent members of a diverse society. Including not discussing people’s private health situations (unless invited) or weight.

        1. Observer*

          I feel for Bill and anyone else who’s not level 4

          I have zero sympathy. Because he’s being a jerk. Alison is right – the whole weight and diet talk needs to stop. It needs to stop NOW. I don’t care what privileges anyone is getting, you don’t get to talk that way about people.

          It’s a problem in general. In a case like this, where he is saying that “fatties” should not be eligible even though we do know that they ARE at higher risk because it’s fine for “those people” to drop dead of Covid, it goes weeeeeeell beyond not being positive.

          Just “glaring” at anyone who is getting the shot is also well beyond not being positive, to be honest, and is not something anyone should have sympathy for, to be honest. When is goes sooo beyond that, it’s a matter of wondering about his level of bigotry and human decency.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I have empathy because I feel the urge he feels. It’s been hard to restrain my negative feelings. I have so far because I’m not working in an office, I’m not directly threatened by daily contact, etc.

            But if they’re in the office, they may qualify under level 3 criteria, essential workers. If they don’t, why aren’t they working from home? OP, could your team be displacing some frustration over being required to be in the office, putting themselves at risk, onto the vax issue?

            Two of my friends who are research chemists qualified under level 3 because their jobs require that they go to work. If OP’s team has to be in the office, OP should be checking that.

            1. You're not special*

              No point in having negative feelings, we have no idea how people manage health. Plenty of skinny people smoke. Skinny people can be alcoholics. Skinny people do drugs. Bill could be any of these or more. So judging someone for being fat is plain stupid unless you have inside access to the lives of hundreds of fat and skinny people.

              I’m not fat but I have Bipolar disorder (it doesn’t put you in a category of underlying illness for COVID). I would give up anything to trade Bipolar for something else.

            2. tungsten*

              If someone is “displacing some frustration” by bullying fat people, that person is a bigot and needs to be held responsible. Much like if someone were “displacing” their “frustration” by shooting up beauty parlors. Being frustrated isn’t actually an excuse for being a horrible human being.

          2. Nic*

            Agreed. Also, honestly? It’s not a privilege. Being at higher risk of complications or death is not a privilege. Getting the jab earlier because you are on a higher risk level (through age/job/health status) is not a privilege, just like if they were doing things in alphabetical order it wouldn’t be a privilege; it’s simply how lists work in the absence of being able to magically vaccinate everyone in the world simultaneously.

            Plus, Bill is making assumptions based on peoples’ appearance. People may have other health conditions which make them eligible. People may not. People may be healthy but have dense muscle and their BMI is a red herring that has put them on the list anyway. Or it might be a valid problem. People may look clinically obese but they’re on the list because they’re an unpaid carer for a relative. None of that is relevant to the office environment. At the end of the day, the problem with the office as it stands is solely Bill’s unprofessional judgementalism.

        2. Self Employed*

          I have read that having apartment neighbors who smoke exposes you to as much smoke as you, yourself, smoking 1-2 cigarettes a day. I’ve lived in an apartment with neighbors who smoke for 5 years, at least 300 days/year of smoking. Would that qualify me? (unfortunately, my county is not vaccinating smokers anyway)

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            In my county, level 4 appears to be all under the honor system. No one has asked (so far) for documentation of health issues, past smoking, or weight. That might change when I actually get to sign up for an appointment, but several people who’ve been vaxxed told me they were never asked.

          2. Aquawoman*

            My vote is to not ask or answer these kinds of questions, because if the relevant authority had to decide every issue like this, it would add six months to sorting out the vaccine schedules and we’d ALL get vaccinated later than we otherwise can.

      3. Caroline Bowman*

        100% this. I am in my early 40’s, not overweight, actually reasonably fit / active and I have hypertension. It’s very well-controlled, it is a hereditary thing unfortunately, but as the doctor said ”smoke, don’t smoke, get huge, live on salt, live only on lettuce… you will still have a tendency to hypertension”. You cannot tell by looking at someone, what their health is like. Why are people so concerned with why Sandra qualifies for a vaccine, but Bobby doesn’t yet?

        It’s just ”oh cool, lucky you, I can’t wait for mine1”. That’s all.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I suppose avoiding this discussion could be seen as a hidden silver lining to my state’s decision to switch to purely aged-based eligibility dates. ie my friends who were about to hit the list because of conditions they might not want to discuss can avoid some inappropriate questions.

      1. WellRed*

        Right? I didn’t care who knew I was higher priority due to diabetes, but now it’s by age, which will out me in a way I didn’t want. Oh well.

  4. Anon Lawyer*

    I mean, people are probably defending their BMI because Bill is calling them fatties? Just a thought. And they’re probably talking about their build in particular, not saying your wife is skeletal.

    By all means, shut it down, but this is pretty judgmental.

    1. Blue*

      Shockingly judgmental, and just co-sign that the problem with BMI is it is a completely arbitrary measure divorced from health, not that all thin people are sick or otherwise damaged. I would encourage the LW to consider whether their own beliefs about weight/size are contributing to an environment where Bill feels empowered to make such horrible remarks.

      1. sunny-dee*

        I can’t post a link, but the CDC references BMI as a guideline for assessing health risk. It isn’t arbitrary; the correlations between BMI and negative health outcomes are well studied. That doesn’t mean (and never has meant) that BMI is the only indicator of health; it is one of many. But it’s not wrong just because reasons.

        1. Jam Today*

          BMI is a tool that correlates health risk at a *population* level, not at an individual level. It was never designed to be a measure to assess the well-being of individual people.

          1. HotSauce*

            Precisely so. My work factors BMI into the cost of our Healthcare premiums, the higher your BMI, the more you pay. One of my coworkers is an amateur bodybuilder, his BMI indicates that he’s obese, but he has less than 5% body fat. Additionally there are people with thyroid and other conditions that make weight loss especially difficult, so in these cases their GPs have to write an exception for those people. BMI is a tool, but it shouldn’t be the end all, be all as a measurement of health.

            1. TiffIf*

              My work factors BMI into the cost of our Healthcare premiums, the higher your BMI, the more you pay.

              um what? That can’t possibly be legal.

        2. Nesprin*

          Not quite- BMI is a useful metric for health risk on a population scale. On an individual scale, individual variations overwhelm signal and BMI is much much less useful (insert standard text on how Tom Cruise’s BMI makes him obese). This difference is “people with BMI >30 tend to be less healthy” vs. “this person has a BMI of >30 and is thus less healthy”. The former is true, the latter is absolutely not the way statistics work.

          That being said, it is easy to measure and is thus commonly used.

        3. AnonEMoose*

          BMI is the measure we have…it doesn’t mean it’s a good one. For one thing, it doesn’t take bone structure into account.

          That said, the main point is that OP definitely needs to address Bill’s glaring. “Bill, while strong feelings about vaccine priorities are understandable, it is not acceptable for you to glare at coworkers leaving for vaccination appointments.”

        4. Observer*

          the correlations between BMI and negative health outcomes are well studied.

          Actually not well studied at all.

          We do know that BMI *AND* weight together do correlate to negative health outcomes on a population level, bu we actually have very little information that is useful on an individual level and pretty much no understanding of how BMI (especially in isolation) correlates to the the health of an individual, especially for “edge cases” such as athletes etc.

          Beyond that, what we don’t know is whether high BMI / weight is actually a CAUSE for the problem seen. Somehow, when it comes to weight all of the health experts seem to forget the foundational principle of statistics, which is “correlation is not the same a causation.” Given that BMI is a factor that is based purely in statistics, that’s a pretty major issue to overlook.

          As it happens, the (very scant) evidence that we have actually indicates that high weight / BMI actually may not be the causative issue. Rather, the problems causing overweight (eg lack of access to foods conducive to healthy weights) ALSO tend to cause many of the problems we tend to associate with high weight. Also, we’re beginning to see some evidence of something that many overweight people have long suspected – that at least some of the bad outcomes we see are caused by poorer healthcare provided to overweight people. Like being told that you don’t need treatment for X because “just lose some weight”, or medical professionals not listening to or taking a person seriously because the patient is fat, which leads to poor outcomes.

          1. Morning Flowers*

            As someone who’s been overweight since age 8, THIS. If doctors had listened to how awful I felt or, I don’t know, considered that my obesity might have a cause other than me faffing around, I might have gotten my frankly *extensive* autoimmune, gastroenterological, and endocrine diagnoses 10-20 years sooner. I wasn’t unhealthy because I was fat, I was (and still am) fat because something was wrong. And it’s attitudes like Bill’s that feed the biases that mean problems like mine don’t get handled right.

        5. Caroline Bowman*

          unfortunately it is visible, unlike many other factors, which is why people feel entitled to Share Insights. Pregnant women get this too. Because it’s visible, people feel quite willing to judge and share thoughts on Why Are You Eating That etcetera.

          If it was invisible, they’d be golden.

    2. StressedButOkay*

      Oh my goodness, yes. Bill is, or was, calling his colleagues fatties and glaring at them as they leave! I would absolutely be loudly defending everything about myself in the face of Bill’s – and perhaps your own – bias.

      They aren’t calling out your wife, they’re talking about their bodies – which were being grossly and unfairly commented on.

      1. Self Employed*

        And some people have builds that just make them count as “high BMI” even when they are not obese. This is typical for athletes who are bulky with muscle–not fat. Or people who are at the extremes of height (petite or extra tall). If they tried to diet to reduce to proportions that would give them a “regular BMI” then THEY would be ill. They’re not trying to say that average people with average BMI are underfed skeletons.

    3. OliveJuice90*

      I agree. It seems like OP also has a problem with overweight people as well. I have no idea why she would think that people’s comments about their own BMI would be a reflection of their views on her wife’s body. And the comment “whatever helps you sleep at night” is pretty much outright implying that these people are making “excuses” for their weight/bmi.
      Shut any talk about weight down please, but also realize that many employees who are defensive are responding to what is likely years of fatphobic comments from others.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, the “whatever helps you sleep at night” comment is extremely dismissive.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Frankly, I should have taken that out of the letter before publishing it because it’s unkind and derailing, and I’ve just removed it.

          1. Anon Lawyer*

            That is fair, but it may also hint that the OP’s management isn’t as weight neutral as they assume it to be.

            1. elizelizeliz*

              Agreed–seeing that part makes me think that anti-fat bias is coming into the OP’s response to this and maybe management more generally.

            2. sunny-dee*

              Or it could just mean that she’s sick of people attacking others for being within a normal weight range.

              1. Anon Lawyer*

                Nothing she posted is an “attack on other for being within a normal weight range” though.

              2. AnonEMoose*

                That seems pretty judgmental and unkind. Can we agree that attacking anyone for their weight is rude, unkind, and unlikely to have anything remotely positive as a result?

              3. Nic*

                If that happened – and sure, that kind of bullying does happen, but I don’t see any indication of it in the letter – then indications are that it only happened as a defensive pushback to Bill’s loud, unapologetic and continued discrimination. Bill is creating the toxic atmosphere, and Bill needs to be shut down yesterday.

                I think LW needs to think of this like an ADA compliance issue. If colleague X had an invisible disability and needed work accommodations, or had just been diagnosed with a chronic illness and needed to leave work for a doctor’s appointment, then Bill would not get a say in it. He wouldn’t have a right to know why they have the accommodation or appointment. He wouldn’t have a right to X’s medical information. He wouldn’t have the right to sit in judgement about whether X has passed some bar of being “worthy” of getting treatment.

                The job of working out what makes people at higher risk of catching COVID and having a serious reaction to it? And what place people get in the queue?

                That falls to medical professionals and epidemiologists, and should not be up for debate in the office. The CDC has worked through the data and it is known that a number of chronic conditions (one of which is obesity, and many of the others can have obesity as a comorbidity or symptom) increase the risk factors of complications and death.

                Bottom line: Bill does not get a say here. Bill does not get to say people are jumping the queue when they aren’t. Bill does not get to glare and be mean to people who are doing the right thing by taking the vaccine when it’s offered (particularly when the only other option is that they turn it down and cause vaccine wastage, and make the whole roll-out take longer by trying to get it at a later stage!).

                If Bill cannot be civil and professional, and insists on trying to stick his oar into colleagues’ private medical information, or make assumptions about said private medical information based on his colleagues’ personal appearances, then Bill needs to be pulled up for a disciplinary chat with LW as his manager, or with HR.

          2. Not a Blossom*

            Respectfully, I think that’s a mistake Allison, because it shows how the OP may be contributing to part of the toxicity. She needs to take a look at herself and her comments too if she wants to be sure she fully shuts this down.

            1. a sound engineer*

              Same – I think it’s telling that OP felt the need to put that offhand remark in.

            2. StressedButOkay*

              I agree as well – it IS unkind, which is why I think it needs to be left in. I wouldn’t be surprised if OP’s thoughts were to show up in work as well – for every Bill in the world calling people Fatties, there are more subtly/not so subtly judging and it can be noticeable.

            3. MCMonkeybean*

              I agree, I think that does change the advice for this situation. What she should tell her employees is the same, but I do think that indicates there needs to be a bit of self-reflection as well and some serious reflection on whether she has contributed to this environment at all. Shutting down something as blatantly egregious as calling coworkers “fatties” doesn’t mean she hasn’t possibly been allowing or contributing to some more subtle issues.

          3. Lyra Silvertongue*

            I do feel as if it’s a somewhat important context to the conversation here though. It’s pretty much impossible to discuss this issue without discussing weight stigma, and the fact that the LW is themselves influenced by this stigma is relevant.

            1. H2*

              Yes, I agree with this. LW, I think that shutting down the talk is the right thing to do. No one should feel pressured to discuss their medical situations at work. If people can’t do that respectfully, then they can’t do it.

              However, I do also think that you should take a hard look at your response. Bill called people derogatory names and was told to stop (!). You basically said that these people should feel badly about themselves with your comment about justifying their bodies to help them sleep at night (!). They had a defensive response framed about themselves personally (which may or may not have been true in any individual case), and you took that as a personal attack on your wife (?!). Those responses aren’t all in line with what is rational.

            2. Sylvan*

              Yes – I think it shows that weight is a popular and charged topic in this office, however it became that way. People feel free to let all kinds of opinions on weight fly.

        2. JSPA*

          I took it to mean, “If internally, you have to attack people thinner than you to feel good about your own body, as a way to push back against the endless pressure of the diet-and-junk-food industrial shame complex, then you do what you have to do.”

          It’s not anti-fat to support “healthy at any weight.” But that literally says, “ANY” weight. If you’re giving yourself that pep talk, but busting on people for being healthy at some other weight (or asserting that there is only One True Weight at which you could possibly be healthy), you’re not actually on board with that concept.

          It can absolutely be a sort of internalized fat-phobia if you feel a strong enough need to let that internal monologue come out of your mouth in the workplace. Dumping on anyone for being “a size” is size-ism. Shut it all down.

          1. Weight*

            This is very common. The obsession with weight is out of control. If you read threads online fat people attack skinny people. The vast majority of comments go like this: ‘I’m not going to eat cabbage and be a skinny stick who looks like a prepubescent child’

            These comments relate to people who are a healthy weight, not underweight. When I lost 3 stones in about 6 months people were obsessed with me. The jealousy was astonishing. And these are people who knew I was Bipolar!

      2. Elle by the sea*

        I don’t think OP is fatphobic at all, but I have the feeling she misunderstood the comments of high BMI people. It’s likely that they meant that with their build, bone density, muscle mass, etc. a normally healthy BMI would not be healthy for them. For example, bodybuilders often have an overweight/obese BMI on paper but in fact they are not overweight/obese. For example, on paper, I have a hip-to-waist ration that would put me in the high risk group for many health issues and suggest that I have excess abdominal fat, but in reality I have very low abdominal fat but my hips are narrow and my waist is not naturally small. I think that’s the kind thing they mean instead of claiming that all people with normal or below normal BMI are sickly and ugly.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          That may be what they meant, but that doesn’t mean the comment isn’t hurtful. All you have to do is flip it around and see how it sounds the other direction… if a slim person said “If I had a BMI that high, I’d be a total blimp and probably have diabetes!” you’d probably agree it was a horrible thing to say even though they’re talking about their own bodies and individual health. Intentional or not, making such comments communicates a judgmental negative view of a certain weight to the people around you.

          I would agree with you if the comments were more nuanced. For example, “I have a large frame, so I feel healthiest when my BMI is higher than the standard range,” or “I worked really hard to build all this muscle, it’s ridiculous that I’m considered overweight because of it” would be fine in my opinion. Those statements are non-judgmental and focused on the personal experiences/health of the speaker in a way that makes it clear they don’t think it necessarily applies to everyone around them.

          1. Save the Hellbender*

            That’s kind of a lot to ask of people who have just been fat shamed by their colleagues.

          2. Observer*

            but that doesn’t mean the comment isn’t hurtful
            . . .
            I would agree with you if the comments were more nuanced.

            Considering what they are responding to, it’s on the OP to have some nuance and consideration.

            I’m seeing the edited version of the letter, but the OP’s response is seriously off kilter. Bill actually called people “fatties” and claimed that they “don’t REALLY need” the vaccine! (I guess because it’s OK for them to drop dead of covid…). And he is STILL glaring at them if they have audacity to actually leave work to get their shots. There is NO WAY to even imagine a way that it’s NOT an attack! And the OP “can’t” do anything about the glaring, although she doesn’t explain why that is. So the hostility continues to manifest.

            But people talking about how they actually are at a decent weight for their body CANNOT be a reasonable defense against blatant hostility. No, it has to be an attack on her wife! It’s all on them to make sure that their self defense is nuanced and precisely targeted. Because. . . I actually do not know what the because would be here.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              Bill was completely out of line and his behavior is completely unacceptable. That doesn’t give everyone else a free pass to say judgmental/hurtful things, even if they’re not being hideously inappropriate like Bill.

              Obviously these are problematic to different degrees. Bill should be dealt with pretty severely for something so egregiously insulting. But the reactionary comments also need to stop… I agree with Allison that the best course of action is to shut down the whole topic of weight. It’s a sensitive topic for many people and is completely unnecessary to talk about at work, so it’s better to keep it out of the office entirely.

              1. Fattie*

                Sorry but I am less worried about thin people feeling sad about what is likely a rare instance of potential body shaming SECOND HAND the wife doesn’t even work there, can we not? Thin people are not the victims of systemic medical fatphobia. The issue isn’t equitable.

                1. H2*

                  Yes! One of these things is a personal attack (being called a fatty by a coworker and being told that your medical condition isn’t worthy of being protected). The other thing is NOT a personal attack (coworkers making comments about their own appearances at different weights).

            2. JSPA*

              Per the letter writer, Bill was shut down “immediately.” The other stuff has been rolling and rolling and rolling. How many days, week and months of leeway do they get because there’s one–immediately silenced–Bill in the room?

              Unless of course the ongoing talk means that Bill hasn’t been shut down as thoroughly as OP thinks (and is saying things only to certain people, when other people are out of earshot). That’s something OP should be on the lookout for. If he’s still lobbing crap at people, it’s totally understandable they’d still be pushing back.

              1. Observer*

                Per the letter writer, Bill was shut down “immediately.”

                Except that she actually has not shut him down. She’s just told him to not say certain things. But she “cannot” make him behave like a decent human being (ie stop glaring at people who are going to get their shots). So, they are defending themselves against ongoing hostility.

          3. No Name #1*

            I fully agree that body shaming and the way that the employees were talking about people with lower BMIs was inappropriate, but it frustrates me when people equate fat-shaming with people making disparaging comments about thin people. To be clear, it is absolutely wrong for people to body shame regardless of what body type they are talking about, but in the US at least, thinness is seen as desirable and the norm while fat people (especially women) are discriminated against much more frequently. While the comments about people with lower BMIs are not acceptable, particularly in a work environment, it makes sense that people who are being told that they don’t deserve a vaccine (which comes dangerously close to blaming high BMI people for having COVID complications) would feel defensive about their bodies.

            1. Weight*

              That has nothing to do with someone being a healthy weight. I can’t be angry at the world because I am ill and they are not. That is just toxic and needs nipping in the bud.

    4. Physics Tech*

      I am surprised Bill was just told to knock it off, that’s a pretty horrible thing to say.

      Asking Bill to apologize (in general, not to specific people) would be the kinder thing for the people who heard that, and (somewhat) show that OP really means it when they say that type of comment is unacceptable.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I’m flabbergasted. I can’t even imagine someone in my professional office calling people “fatties”, even hypothetical people. I’m sure plenty of people think it, but nobody would say it out loud in that setting. I don’t even know how such a thing would be handled because I can’t imagine it happening.

        1. Ms Jackie*

          I can imagine it.

          I had a coworker call me ‘expired milk’ because i was 32 and unmarried.

        2. Shannon*

          Can confirm as a person of size. Fatty isn’t the meanest thing I’ve been called at work.

          “I’d rather you shut down comments on weight — one’s own weight, other people’s weight, shut it all down, period.”

          Yes and thank you, Alison.

          1. Cat Tree*

            I’m also fat, but some places are more professional than others. I’m not some naive person who can’t imagine fat shaming in general, just not at my particular workplace. My point is that it is possible to cultivate a work culture that isn’t completely toxic.

            1. Shannon*

              I’m super glad that it’s inconceivable at your office!

              I hope the office where I am now finds it unprofessional – or even better, that I never have to find out because it never happens here. <3

      2. StressedButOkay*

        I am also surprised – insulting your coworkers and aggressively glaring at them as they go to medical appointments is something that deserves more than a “hey, stop that”. He’s actively making people feel uncomfortable and that’s something that needs to be handled ASAP.

        1. JSPA*

          Yes, separately from the “why” of it, he’s
          a) being rude
          b) being belligerent
          c) trying to shame people
          and
          d) trying interfere in other people’s medical decisions.

          The Letter writer ought to basically tear him a new one, in the process of explaining all the ways that he’s put himself adjacent to being fired. “You have done something egregiously problematic. If you are to remain here, I need you to fix your attitude problem, not only your statements. Not only do I not want to see you glaring, I want to see you being reasonably and similarly collegial in attitude towards all of your colleagues. Regardless of their vaccine status, their body size and shape, and any jealousy that you may be feeling.” That is a reasonable thing to expect, and demand.

          If he were glaring at people or otherwise retaliating due to his discomfort (or intellectual distaste) for their creed, national origin, race, color, gender, OP would know to shut that down (at least, I hope so!) Whether or not a weight designation formally counts as a disability or a health condition is only minimally relevant; he’s commenting–rudely, no less–on other people’s bodies. At work.

      3. Joielle*

        Yeah, if Bill still feels emboldened to glare at people leaving for appointments, then he was not reprimanded thoroughly enough. The LW needs to have another talk with him and make it clear that his job is on the line if he can’t stop being an ass. And an apology is a good idea too.

    5. Shhhh*

      I was totally on board with the letter writer until those comments.

      In any case, I absolutely agree with Alison.

    6. ManBearPig*

      I really do hate BMI because so many Bills in the world treat it like it’s some immutable, universally accurate measure of… I’m honestly not sure what. When I was in the Army, if your BMI was above a certain point you had to get calipered during your PT test to check your body fat to make sure you still fit guidelines. One of the guys in my unit was absolutely shredded out of his mind, but because muscles weighs a lot he always has to get taped. Absolutely nobody would have looked at him and said he was physically unhealthy or fat, but because BMI is what it is he still had to get checked. BMI is only “accurate” for people whose bodies fit the somewhat arbitrary Reference Man/Woman specifications, but for everyone else it really doesn’t say much

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Back in the days before BMI, when they used actuarial tables instead, a friend of mine was in the Marine Corps. According to the actuarial tables, he was overweight. Despite having less than 5% body fat, a point at which is starts to become dangerous to lose more.

        BMI doesn’t take build, age or even gender into account, and according to some studies, those who are in the “normal” range have a shorter life expectancy than those in the “overweight” range.

        But none of this matters for the situation at hand. Bill’s problem isn’t that BMI isn’t as useful as he believes it is, his problem is that he’s a jerk contributing to a toxic work environment. One can be right – or wrong – without being an ass.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Bill’s problem isn’t that BMI isn’t as useful as he believes it is, his problem is that he’s a jerk contributing to a toxic work environment.
          **
          +1000. If Bill didn’t conveniently have BMI to use as a fat-shaming tool, he’d find something else. BMI is just a red herring here.

        2. Observer*

          But none of this matters for the situation at hand. Bill’s problem isn’t that BMI isn’t as useful as he believes it is, his problem is that he’s a jerk contributing to a toxic work environment. One can be right – or wrong – without being an ass.

          This! !00%

    7. Polecat*

      I agree that the OP sounds like she has some weight judgement of her own to deal with. Feeling like they are insulting her wife (huh?) is not a rational response.

    8. Wait Wait Weight*

      Comments about thin people have the potential to hurt too, though. Trust me, I’ve been fat for decades, I’ve even been spit on, it sucks. But I stopped making negative comments about weight at all after knowing a particularly beautiful, thin co-worker for awhile – turns out she was bullied for her thinness in school just as I was bullied for my fatness. We both had the same scars. And if I know I still hurt when people make derisive comments about too much weight, aimed directly at me or not (I mean you can say you’re talking about your own weight only all you want but the underlying message is “my system for valuing people includes what their body looks like”), then I ought to be just as thoughtful about her feelings – and anyone else in the vicinity. The way to respond to people judging your body is to judge their character, not to help them by judging your body too, just at a different size.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        *applause* I was also bullied for being skinny and am still scarred.
        What it comes down to is bullies will find a way to hurt others because that’s what they do. If it wasn’t weight, it would be something else. They use weight because unfortunately, it’s socially accepted.

      2. Lady Meyneth*

        *Joins applause*

        I wasn’t bullied for my weight, but I’ve always been super skinny and it was commented on a lot. I only reached a normal weight well into my 20s, and by normal I mean something that didn’t make me look like a cadaver. I’ve been on weight-gain diets since I was 7yo, I took every supplement there was, I did everything to gain weight.

        So each time somebody told me I was lucky to be so thin, I felt slapped. Each time someone joked I needed another burger, I felt crushed. Each time someone said I was thin enough and should get treatment for my eating disorder (which I never had), I felt defeated.

        I wish more people were like you.

        1. Inefficient Cat Herder*

          I got called “anorexic” as a teen and young adult. Yes, I still have body-image issues. I also have been mis-gendered my whole life due to my body structure (even once someone tried to physically remove me from a women’s loo line!) Talk about how bodies look is NEVER ok in the workplace. Only OK if it is romantic partner telling you you look hot :)

    9. pieces_of_flair*

      Seriously, why would you think their comments have anything to do with your wife? BMI is not a meaningful measure at the individual level; it was designed to measure populations. Two people with the same BMI can appear to be very different sizes based on bone structure, muscle mass, etc. So yes, some people would look too thin/be unhealthy with a “normal” BMI. That has nothing to do with anyone for whom a “normal” BMI is healthy.

      Your contempt for larger people is coming through so clearly – “whatever they need to tell themselves to sleep at night,” worrying about how the “slimmer people” feel when the non-slim people are defending themselves from someone who is literally telling them their weight means they don’t deserve to live – that it’s no wonder Bill feels empowered to share his bigoted views in this environment.

    10. Firecat*

      Especially since that is what OP says they are saying! “If I had a normal BMI I would look skeletal” is very different then OPs extrapolation later about them thinking her wife looks bad.

      I for example would look terrible with a healthy BMI because I carry far more muscle then the BMI allows for me. I’ve had muscle/fat measured and I currently carry 185 lbs of muscle/bone. That makes me already overweight by BMI standards with 0% fat which is not a healthy amount of fat to carry! For women we should have between 10 and 25%. My goal is 15% body fat which pushes me to Obese on the BMI scale 31 I think.

      I’d be pretty irritated of I was accused of slim shaming just for speaking about my body and facts about how the BMI is wrong for me… especially with Bill glaring and calling folks fatties.

    11. Joielle*

      Right? Nobody is talking about the LW’s wife and it’s kind of weird that she jumps to that. It’s just completely off topic. There’s no need to be defensive about comments that have nothing to do with you.

      The LW seems to think that both sides are at fault here, but no. Bill’s behavior is much, MUCH worse. The LW should examine her own feelings about fat people and make sure she’s not contributing to this awful working environment.

      1. Yorick*

        It’s super weird considering the LW’s wife doesn’t work with them, they’ve just met her sometimes at happy hours. Why on earth would these comments have anything to do with her wife??

      2. Ads*

        It’s not weird at all. People think the bullying works one way, against people who are fat. But fat people also bully skinny people. They’ll say things similar to this on repeat:

        ‘I’m not going to eat cabbage, become a prepubescent child just because society says I should’ (these comments are about people who are a healthy weight). They are not talking about underweight people, they are talking about those who are a healthy weight.

        When I lost 3 stone due to being ill the obsession was insane. Even the woman at the coffee shop stopped me to ask how I did it….

    12. Anne*

      Indeed, I would say that. Given what we know about BMI, someone very well might look really off and have to be sick to be at “normal” BMI, so I don’t think it implied anything about anyone ELSE, just that it wouldn’t be right for themselves.

    13. KD*

      I would have taken it to apply to their build, not all people with lower BMIs as well. My BMI is 26.8, putting me somewhere between overweight and obese, but I wear size 2 jeans. It’s just a side effect of being short and having lifted weights for years. Nothing about how BMI is calculated accounts for whether your weights is from muscle. Some people have very high BMIs that you would never guess by just looking at them.

    14. CatLadyInTraining*

      Yes, it needs to be shut down right away. Bill is someone who never learned to keep his mouth shut. And yes, this whole vaccine thing is frustrating, but oh well! That’s life!

  5. Taryn*

    Thanks, Alison. As a far person myself, and close friends with someone who is so small people have accused her of an eating disorder that just isn’t there, I appreciate your take. Conversations regarding someone’s weight should remain between the person and their health professional. Period. If you’re fat, skinny, whatever, that really isn’t anyone’s business other than your own.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This right here. I mean, my tweenagers know that we do not comment on other people’s bodies (period-end-of-statement), so I don’t understand why grown-up adults would think that this is okay office talk.

    2. Allie*

      As someone who has an auto immune disorder that makes me skinny, yes. Please don’t comment on someone’s weight at all (unless they open the subject). Not negatively, not positively. It’s just a big ol nope.

    3. Mx*

      “Accused her of an eating disorder”. We don’t accuse someone of an illness, we accuse them of a crime.

      1. Taryn*

        I mean. I agree with you. I apologize if my wording was insensitive to those with struggles, and if it were possible to edit comments here, I would. But the hounding she’s gotten really can be described as “accusing”. It’s been incredibly aggressive, rude and mean spirited. Honestly, as a fat person, it was really eye opening to see someone on the complete opposite end of the spectrum get such horrifically negative attention over her weight.

      2. JJ*

        Accusing is what happens in some circumstances. Someone objects to my weight/body/existence and they decide I am ‘like that’ because of an eating disorder. It an aggressive, cruel ‘gotcha’ moment. Nothing I do or say can really alter how people behave once they have decided this. If someone wants to challenge them over the fact they are bullying me for a perceived illness then I would welcome that. But I have learned that any attempts from me to push back using this argument (or any other) only makes things worse.

      3. Jaydee*

        I agree with you that it is wrong to “accuse” someone of having an illness. “Accuse” suggests the person has control over their illness and also puts a moral judgment on the illness, neither of which are appropriate.

        That said, the way many people talk about certain types of illnesses could absolutely be considered accusatory. Anything that relates to weight or eating is seen as both controllable and worthy of moral judgment by a large portion of society. A lot of mental illness is treated similarly. Eating disorders fall right at the intersection of those two categories.

    4. llamaswithouthats*

      Yes this! As a skinny person, I don’t face the systemic discrimination that fat people do, but that doesn’t mean comments about my weight are okay. Stop telling thin people that you think they have eating disorder, that you think they eat too little/should eat more, etc. People just have different body types. Stop commenting on people’s weight dammit.

  6. Mischa*

    I am a person in a larger body who was just diagnosed with an eating disorder this year. This is my literal nightmare and one of the few reasons I’m grateful for WFH (otherwise WFH is torture for me). But seriously, all of this weight talk would send me spiraling, especially so early in my recovery. Alison is right on the mark here. Weight and diet talk have no place at work, imo.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Congrats on starting recovery! It’s a long hard road but it’s so worth it.

  7. Librarian of SHIELD*

    Here’s the thing, OP. When people say “If I weighed what this chart at the doctor’s office says I should weigh, I wouldn’t like the way I looked” they are saying exactly zero things about your wife or her body, so take that defensiveness all the way out in the hallway and don’t let it back into your office. People get to make their own decisions about their own bodies, and as long as they’re not casting aspersions on the bodies of anybody else, it’s nobody else’s business.

    Bill, on the other hand, is casting ALL the aspersions on other people’s bodies, and you need to shut that down hard.

    1. ManBearPig*

      Absolutely. When I was in the best shape of my life (thin, defined, but not shredded) I was still something like 35 pounds over what the BMI said I should be, so I absolutely think I personally would look sickly if I got down to the “ideal” weight, but I also knew and still know people in my same age/height/gender bracket who weigh around the “ideal” weight and they look fine and healthy.

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      So apparently the letter has been edited since it was first posted, and maybe it was more judgmental in its first incarnation.

      Even so – I don’t think “if I weighed x amount I would look awful/be unhealthy/hate myself” comments are ever okay. They are maybe not “aimed” at the OP’s wife – sort of like how a horrific fart in an elevator isn’t “aimed” at anyone – but much like a fart, such comments stink. You don’t want to be going around saying that weight gained OR weight lost makes a person sick or disgusting or ugly. It’s toxic.

      I’m actually a little shocked by how crude and cruel the OP’s office seems to be about weight. I mean – Bill? Holy cats, Bill! Who talks like that?

      1. Shad*

        Here’s the thing. When my BMI said I was healthy, my entire rib cage was visible and my hip bones jutted out. Admittedly, that weight balance put me towards the low end of a healthy BMI, and I’d certainly look different at the higher end of the healthy range, but that’s not a set point I’ve ever really been at. BMI works on a societal level, and is a reasonable *factor* in assessing overall health, but on its own, it doesn’t say much either aesthetically or about health, and individual experience of one’s own body at a given weight trumps what BMI says.

      2. Firecat*

        I disagree with you.

        I went into more details above, but yes if I had a “healthy BMI” I would not be healthy is perfectly factual and OK to say. I’m sure I would look terrible with 0% body fat too!

        Which is not the same at all as suggesting everyone with a healthy BMI is actually unhealthy. It’s why the BMI is terrible. Because it ignores individual circumstances.

      3. Peg*

        I’ve always been thin and my whole life, folks have told me how sick I look, that I should eat a sandwich, that I have more in common with a 2×4, etc. My teenage years were especially hard. As an adult I am privileged to be thin so these comments are merely hurtful and don’t lead to discrimination in any way, but if someone said at work ‘If I weight X I’d look horrible,’ that would 100% hurt my feelings. The fact is that comments like these are thrown around constantly and it’s somehow okay, and I have no idea why. Saying you’re happy with your weight is one thing, but saying you’d be horrified to be X weight is entirely unnecessary even when defending yourself. You don’t have to put down an entire weight class to feel better.

        1. Firecat*

          I think it’s awful that you were picked on for your weight. My best friend struggled to gain weight and I was a fierce defender off her to anyone who made flippant comments about it.

          That said I hope you can divorce your personalisation of people who say they don’t look good at X weight. It’s not personal or about you.

          1. draco76321*

            So then you’re saying that if us thin people said “if I were the average weight I would look like a big balloon” that that’s acceptable because it’s not about the people around you? This is part of the problem; people like you have no idea what it’s like to be this disgusting and thin and get told to “just deal with it because it isn’t personal.”

            1. 10Isee*

              I’ve seen this argument several times and… I guess I don’t understand. I have several friends who are naturally very thing with slender frames, and yes, they’ve mentioned in the past that if they weren’t in the “underweight” range it just wouldn’t work for their bodies. It’s never been a problem, because it’s true. When I’m at my healthiest, I’m at the top of the overweight range; when my friend Sandra is at her healthiest she’s on the lower end of underweight. We know it and we talk about it. Is that so abnormal?

            2. Yorick*

              Actually, yes. People who weigh 100 or even close to 200 pounds less than me often talk about how horrible it would be to gain 5 or 10 pounds, or how much of a blimp they are now that they’ve already gained it. This is something fat people hear alllllllll the time. I find those comments weird and tone-deaf but I don’t take them personally, because I can see how 5 or 10 pounds might seem like a big difference to them.

              Sure, you should try to avoid making comments like that. But LW is 100% wrong to put those comments on the same level as Bill’s use of the word “fatties,” complaints about people getting the vaccine, and GLARING AT SPECIFIC FAT COWORKERS.

              1. GothicBee*

                This. Most people who are overweight/fat/obese/whatever have absolutely listened to thinner people talk about how awful it is that they’ve gained weight or how awful it would be if they did gain weight where the thin person making those statements is no where near as big as the overweight person.

                Plus the people making these statements about how awful they’d look at a normal BMI are defending themselves against being called “fatty”(!!!) and other fatphobia that seems to be going on here. So I don’t really blame them for not being the most articulate at the moment.

                1. Yorick*

                  It sounds like Bill is GLARING AT FAT PEOPLE who aren’t even talking about being able to get the vaccine.

            3. Dahlia*

              People DO say stuff like that all the time, though? If I let it ruin my day, I wouldn’t function.

            4. Firecat*

              Actually I understand more then most, because like I said my best friend struggled with being underweight.

              And yes, when my friend says something like – man I would have to eat a buffet table to weigh that much I don’t take it to be about me at all. Because it’s not.

              I also understand that someone who is 4′ 5″ vs my 5′ 11″ is just not gonna have the same perspective on size, weight, or portions. So yeah in general don’t personalize what someone says about themselves.

        2. Anne*

          I think though it’s about that person. I actually look really really thin and not as well within the normal BMI. I guess Im just super dense hahaha. So yes, if I weighed whatever, I would look whatever.

        3. Paris Geller*

          I do appreciate you pointing out that those comments are hurtful, but don’t lead to discrimination. No one should EVER be commenting about someone else’s weight at work, but I know when weight and fatphobia gets brought up in work places it often leads to both-sideisms. I understand how those comments would be hurtful even if someone didn’t mean them to be, and I agree that no one should be insulting anyone’s weight at any office, either directly or indirectly.

          1. Peg*

            A lot of the arguments here boil down to ‘well people say they’d hate to gain 5 pounds so it’s okay for me to say X.’ Um… it’s not okay for anyone. But we can’t have this conversation without pointing out that hurt feelings are different than the discrimination that overweight people face, especially when it comes to healthcare. I honestly don’t understand how someone can begrudge anyone a COVID vaccine when some people can’t even get a proper diagnosis without hearing ‘did you try diet and exercise?’

      4. Observer*

        Even so – I don’t think “if I weighed x amount I would look awful/be unhealthy/hate myself” comments are ever okay. They are maybe not “aimed” at the OP’s wife – sort of like how a horrific fart in an elevator isn’t “aimed” at anyone – but much like a fart, such comments stink.

        If the OP wants those comments to stop she needs to make Bill behave. He has explicitly called people “fatties” and said that they don’t “really” need the shots. And he STILL glares at them. You simply cannot declare open season on people and then expect them not to hit back. At least they are not explicitly calling other people out or claiming that OTHER people are “too skinny” and therefore don’t “really” need the shots.

        1. Nic*

          Yup, this. The office environment didn’t have the problem before Bill started being terrible and unprofessional. Odds are that if you can get control over Bill and make it clear that weight comments and judgement about “worthiness” for medical treatments are wholly unprofessional and will not be put up with – and enforce that – then the rest of the office will calm down again.

    3. Usually Quiet*

      These coworkers are not saying that they won’t like the way they’d look at a lower BMI, they are saying that they’d be sickly/dying. It’s a big difference and has a tone of judgement to it. If someone loudly declared the opposite, that “If I had a BMI of 30, I’d be in the hospital”, we’d be jumping all over them for the comment. It’s obvious that type of statement is intended as a judgement on the people in the first half of the sentence.

      Bill’s (horrible) comments have been shut down, but that has Not stopped the overwhelming weight talk at the office. So many people are participating and continuously talking about weight that Bill can’t be blamed for everything – sounds like he’s a symptom of an underlying problem. Talking about shoving tubes down noses is pretty extreme! Stopping any form a weight talk is a good way to get everybody to sort of reset and stop obsessing, judging, and retaliating,

      I get why the OP is upset by the comments. A lot of early-stage body positivity stuff starts out by being negative towards the previously “accepted” group. It’s like the “Real women have curves” campaign where the acceptance of one group kicks out another.

      1. Anon Lawyer*

        I think the nose tube thing is the OP’s gloss, no? I think there’s an asymmetry here – nobody thinks that someone in the “healthy” BMI range is per se unhealthy because of it. So when someone says “I would be unhealthy if my BMI was 20,” I don’t think it should be taken to be a generalized statement.

  8. Sue*

    While I wholeheartedly agree about weight talk, I wouldn’t want you to shut down all vaccination discussion. The way most of us have gotten shots is by telling everyone we know that we’re looking and then letting our network know when someplace has appointments available. It requires very quick action to get scheduled so that fast notice is crucial.

    1. HS Teacher*

      Agreed. When I found out a local hospital was allowing teachers to register, I shared the info with my school, and we all got appointments. It’s good to be open about vaccinations, also, to encourage those who are afraid to do it.

    2. Elle Woods*

      Agreed. I was able to find an appointment for myself. In turn, I told a couple of friends who turned around and found appointments for themselves & loved ones.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      One way for the office to do that then is for the company to have info readily accessible, but no discussion is necessary …similar to how an office might get an email from HR letting everyone know the company has an EAP program that covers stress management, substance abuse treatment, financial and legal advice, or mental health referrals, and here’s how to access it…with no discussion beyond that.

      1. Sue*

        Honestly, an email of resources is not helpful for scheduling vaccination appointments. By the time you see the email, they’re gone. It has to be a fast notice and quick action. I think the situation is getting better but around here, it’s still either spend hours searching, maybe find something an hour or two away (×2) or luck into an opening. Shutting down all communication is overkill.

    4. Deejay*

      Yesterday the U.K.’s vaccine booking website changed its eligibility criteria from “aged 55 and over to “aged 50 and over”. A Facebook friend posted this news.

      Yesterday was my 50th birthday. It was thanks to the Facebook post that I knew I could book at the earliest possible opportunity. My first jab is in nine days time.

      So, yes, I’m glad people talk about it, just as my colleagues at work were pleased to hear about my dad getting his on Christmas Eve. He was the first one they’d heard about within two degrees of separation and it made the rollout seem real for the first time.

  9. Orangefloss*

    LW, I’d ask you to rephrase your thinking about how people are responding to the whole BMI debate. Frankly, BMI is a bullshit metric (there are loads of medical articles on that topic out there for you to google). There are plenty of well muscled individuals with high BMI. There are plenty of people whose bodies would look gaunt at the “appropriate” BMI. There are plenty of people who are unhealthy and have a higher BMI. Those people who are defending themselves from Bill’s “fatties” comments aren’t calling you and your wife repulsive Skeletors. They’re saying for themselves a BMI <30 would be unhealthy.

    1. 124243*

      Removed because off-topic; please stick to advice for the letter-writer, not what you think is and isn’t healthy. – Alison

    2. Venus*

      The BMI concept was developed as a measure in order to compare one large group to another (nation to nation, continent to continent). As per usual, society has taken a scientific measure and brutally changed it in a way to make individuals feel that they are doing something wrong.

      The US military had BMI requirements for their soldiers for years, but has moved to remove these because some of their fittest folks have lots of muscle and endurance with almost no fat, yet their BMI indicates that they ‘should be’ obese. They have been penalizing their most fit soldiers.

  10. 124243*

    I’ve heard similar whining about whether smokers “deserve” a vaccine. Everyone deserves a vaccine! Stop criticizing people for getting vaccinated! If you think the government’s eligibility standards are wrong, take it up with the government. It’s not the vaccinated person’s fault.

    1. J*

      Yes. The problem isn’t that the “wrong” people are getting vaccinated–it’s that there isn’t (yet) enough to go around. As long as every dose is getting into someone’s arm, all we can do is keep waiting for the supply to ramp up, and remember that every immunized person brings us one step closer to herd immunity.

      1. GreenDoor*

        In many areas, including mine, they have eligibility categories….but there are still extra doses because not everyone in an eligibility group chooses to get one. So people should quit moaning about who should and shouldn’t be put on their local eligibility list. Call your local clinics and providers and see if they offer an end-of-day walk in opportunity. Providers in my area do! If they’ve opened a pack of vaccines and end up having no-shows, they will likely give out vaccines to walk-ins who aren’t on eligibility lists so those doses don’t have to be tossed at the end of the day.

        As for Bill, he can go pound sand.

        1. Specks*

          I sort of agree with you on taking initiative (and I did — I have a condition that is too rare to be on any CDC list, so I went and got a “no-waste” vaccine after a few tries). But that is also a privileged thing to be able to do and not one anyone should have to do. Not everyone can spend hours driving half an hour (or an hour, or two) every evening checking different pharmacies for leftovers — not everyone has a car or the time. And not everyone has the time to be prowling the internet for 2 hours a day in search of appointments like a lot of people have had to do. It’s fair to feel angry, frustrated, and unvalued because you aren’t eligible even though you are at a high risk, or to complain that the roll-out process has been a mess despite having 9 months to prepare (which the previous federal government wasted horribly), and it’s fair to demand that we do better in the future. What isn’t helpful or kind is attacking individuals who happened to be eligible as a part of the current crapshoot. But frankly I feel that your “shut up and take the matters into your own hands if you don’t like it” attitude about it is almost equally unhelpful, as it’s attacking people who have already been screwed plenty.

    2. BottleBlonde*

      100% . I’ve had to talk to family members about this to quell their outrage that smokers will be eligible before them, implying (to them) that the decision to smoke means those folks “deserve” the vaccine more. The fact is, we all need and deserve a vaccine ASAP. But it’s common sense that people who are proven to be at greater risk for serious complications, ICU stays, and intubation get the vaccine sooner so we can limit the demands on our health care system. That’s all it’s about.

  11. Not a Blossom*

    I have to start by saying that I completely agree that shutting down the weight talk is great, but I’d also mute the talk about reasons for eligibility in general. Some people might be eligible because of comorbid conditions that they do not want to disclose, and they shouldn’t be put in a situation where they feel pressured to say something. That’s not quite the same thing as shutting down all eligibility talk.

    Not the issue, but to touch on this: “My lovely wife (I’m a woman, too, if it matters) has a normal BMI and she looks beautiful to me, so it’s especially weird hearing that she is apparently gaunt, ugly and skeletal from people who were perfectly friendly to her at zoom happy hours and things.”

    You are taking this in particular too personally. No one is trashing your wife; they are trying to justify/defend/make themselves feel better. It’s about them, not her. For the record, there are people who look too thin with a “healthy” BMI, just like there are some who look average with a higher BMI. I say this not because it applies to all or even most people (it’s a very small percentage), but to remind you that people who are saying this aren’t saying that all people with a BMI in a certain range look bad; they are saying it because they heard this bit of truth and, rightly or wrongly, applied it to themselves because it is either true or it makes them feel better. Please don’t think that others in the office are thinking horrible things about your wife.

    1. Willis*

      Yes, I feel like general information that certain groups that are now eligible = ok. Discussion about why any individual in the office is or isn’t eligible = not ok. Judgmental comments about reasons for eligibility among people in the office or general public = definitely not ok.

      But if OP’s staff can’t find the line among all these things, I don’t think it’s bad that she just asked to shut down the discussion altogether. People who want information about whether they’re eligible can get it from the internet or the news or their local health dept, it doesn’t need to be provided by co-workers.

    2. Allypopx*

      Yes. They’re not saying that your wife is too thin or gaunt or skeletal, they’re saying that their particular frame does not support BMI in a way they are comfortable with, which is true for many of us. Also the way people feel about their own bodies is different than how they regard others. Definitely let that go.

    3. pancakes*

      “For the record, there are people who look too thin with a ‘healthy’ BMI . . .”

      Too thin for what, exactly? For your taste. You’re upbraiding the letter writer for taking their coworkers’ commentary “too personally,” but the idea that some people don’t weight enough for you to see them as attractive is pretty personal as well, and has no more place in this discussion than the letter writer’s wife’s weight does. There is often a lot of hypocrisy that comes out around this topic, and it’s not helpful.

      1. Anon Lawyer*

        I assume they’re talking about people who are “too thin” for themselves as to their own body, which appears to be what the coworkers were talking about since they were talking about their own bodies.

        1. pancakes*

          That just doesn’t make sense in context. It’s straightforwardly about attractiveness. The full sentence is, “For the record, there are people who look too thin with a ‘healthy’ BMI, just like there are some who look average with a higher BMI.” It isn’t necessary or kind to appraise people this way, and doing so isn’t a corrective to the Bills of the world – its more like the other side of the same coin.

          1. Anon Lawyer*

            Given the context of the letter, I think you’re stretching. “Look too thin” can just be a colloquial for how they feel about their body at a given weight, not about attractiveness.

            1. pancakes*

              The context of the letter doesn’t set the language or tone each of us use to respond to it.

          2. Anne*

            I look too thin for myself when I am in the normal range. I do look like I am a little sick and because of where my body stores weight, I have trouble getting clothes to fit attractively AND I usually am dieting heavily at that weight which isn’t good. Eating normally puts we slightly overweight but I look healthy and my brain is healthy.
            I’m not exactly sure what you are arguing here.

        2. pancakes*

          I should add, what the coworkers are saying about their own bodies doesn’t seem much better. To say they’d be emaciated or sick at x number of pounds is pretty negative, intense, and personal for work chit-chat. I don’t think it’s necessarily harmless, either, because of those qualities.

          1. Anne*

            I mean, all weight talk is fraught with issues, but saying if I lost 20 pounds I wouldn’t look quite healthy is pretty straightforward.

          2. Yorick*

            It would usually be way too intense for work chit-chat, except there’s someone at work throwing around the word “fatties” and complaining that they’re able to get the vaccine. So they’re responding to that in a pretty natural way, imo.

          3. Observer*

            Well, it’s an intense response to someone who has decided that “fatties” don’t “need” to be protected from covid. And to an office environment where fat-phobia is apparently acceptable, since the OP doesn’t think she can shut down the glaring at “fatties”, even though it’s clear what he is after since he’s already SAID it out loud.

            1. GothicBee*

              Exactly. It’s a response to the fatphobia. Sure it’s not the most eloquent or empathetic response, but if someone implies that you’re an awful person because you have the audacity to be fat, you can’t exactly get upset when they inadvertently offend thin people. And I say “inadvertently” because it’s pretty clear based on the statements in the letter that these people are talking about themselves personally, not all thin people everywhere.

              1. pancakes*

                Making a point of saying negative things about people with thinner bodies isn’t an inadvertent response to fatphobia, though – it’s a pretty direct and unambiguous effort to turn body-shaming in a different direction. I get that people think it’s a “natural” response to Bill’s vile behavior, but it doesn’t follow that it’s the best response. The body-shaming in this office doesn’t need to be re-directed, it needs to be shut down.

                1. Observer*

                  Except that the “FAT” people are not actually saying anything about the bodies of slimmer people – except in the OP’s mind. They are saying that THEIR own bodies would not work well at a lower weight – in response to explicit comments that their weight makes them unfit to be vaccinated and ongoing clearly expressed hostility.

                  Shutting down the weight commentary is a good idea. But that has to mean ALL commentary – which includes the “glares” (and other non-verbal harassment that I have no doubt is going on.)

            2. Yorick*

              Let’s not forget that Bill didn’t just say the word “fatties” one time, he’s GLARING AT HIS FAT COWORKERS. I know I’ve been all-capping that in a lot of comments, but I really want to make sure that people remember. This is really intensely inappropriate conduct, and OP seems to think it’s not something she can do anything about, as well as seeming to think it’s approximately equal to people saying they wouldn’t look good if they were thin.

      2. Observer*

        Too thin for what, exactly?

        Actually, some people look too thin FOR HEALTH at the officially “healthy” BMI. In fact, some people look unhealthy because they ARE unhealthy at that BMI.

        In this case, the people who are saying this are saying that they would look “too thin” for THEIR health or THEIR taste.

        It’s ironic that you are jumping on a commenter for supposedly expressing an opinion on someone else’s weight, while dismissing the opinions of people who are expressing those opinions about their own weight.

        1. pancakes*

          No, you can’t accurately assess someone’s health just by looking at their weight. I don’t think people should talk about one another’s bodies this way at work.

      3. Allypopx*

        When I’m a ‘normal’ BMI, I can see my ribs. My eyes look sunken. My face gets weirdly angular and my skin doesn’t flush correctly. I have been asked, by doctors, in my healthy BMI if I feel sick. Many indicators for health like complexion, energy level, etc. are not good. I am very comfortable saying I look too thin and unhealthy. I’d love to look thin and healthy, but that’s not how my body reacts.

    4. Magenta Sky*

      Not all eligibility is based on medical criteria. I *think* I’m eligible for the shot I got this morning because of my medical condition, but I *know* I am because I’m an IT working in an essential service business.

    5. And they all rolled over*

      I think LW was totally correct to ban eligibility talk. Some people feel VERY strongly about the issue. It’s as fraught as discussing politics at work, but worse because death is on the line.

      It seems to me that they could draw the line precisely between “talking about where to get your vaccination” is OK and “talking about why you are eligible” is not OK. The reason you are eligible doesn’t change where you can get the vaccination. There may be a few exceptions (e.g. hospitals or schools vaccinating their employees; a mobile vaccination clinic at a nursing home) but they don’t seem likely to apply to LW’s coworkers.

    6. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Do people really keep such close track on their own/ other people’s BMI’s? I honestly have no idea what my husband’s BMI is, or any of my coworkers. If I heard someone discussing BMI’s I would never think to apply it to someone else I know. Everyone’s height to body portions are very different, so BMI’s affect everyone very differently – the projection in the letter just strikes me as very strange.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        I say with all possible love that I think LW made a huuuuuge leap about her wife’s BMI that most of us would not make (as well as then assuming that people would be evil to Wife at happy hour if they thought she was too thin, which, whaaaa???).

        Wife’s appearance seems to be an unusually fraught issue for LW.

    7. some dude*

      In general, the people who I know who complain a lot about other people being too skinny are insecure about their own weight and attacking others because of it.

      There is also a whole thing, especially in gossip magazines, where celebrity women are all either described as being anorexic or fat – there is this obsession with the women’s bodies, and how they are either under or overweight, or look great in a bikini three months after giving birth. it is gross.

  12. HigherEdAdminista*

    You might consider re-framing for yourself your own internal processes around the idea of your staff members who say that if they had a normal BMI, they would look underweight or be unhealthy for themselves. This sounds a lot like they are trying to justify why their body weight is acceptable, which is something many folks in larger bodies feel they must do. We are often looked at as lazy, unhealthy, unattractive, or uneducated about nutrition and exercise, when really the reality is for many that they may have diets and exercise habits that are very similar to people in smaller bodies, but they ended up in a larger body due to a variety of factors.

    Given that they have an openly hostile coworker who makes disparaging comments about their eligibility for vaccines, it isn’t surprising that people are feeling compelled to justify their size. Chances are, they are not saying everyone with a lower BMI is gaunt and unhealthy; they are speaking for themselves, not condemning your wife or your colleagues who are in smaller bodies.

    Thank you for supporting your employees in getting vaccinated. I agree with Alison that it is best to shut down all weight related discussions. And I do think you can shut down your employee who is angrily glaring at people by letting him know his expression hasn’t gone unnoticed and that he needs to maintain a neutral facial expression. If he was eye-rolling or glaring at clients, it wouldn’t be allowed; this is no different.

    1. CatMom*

      Yes, yes yes. Agreed. I know that I would feel extremely judged and defensive if one of my coworkers was walking around calling me a “fatty” and expressing hatred toward people with larger bodies or higher BMIs. In fact, it could very easily jeopardize my eating disorder recovery. Bill’s hostile behavior contributes to this just as much as the comments.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        If I worked with Bill it would be my professional reputation at risk because I’m not sure how long I could refrain from shouting at him.

    2. Bernadette*

      Yes! So much good stuff here.

      I think it’s worth thinking about power in these situations. These staff members are in a workplace where they have a coworker making cruel comments about their bodies and in a world where it’s broadly socially acceptable to express similar sentiments in a more polite way.

      Shutting down the weight talk definitely seems like the move, but the way they’re dealing with the situation really doesn’t seem like they’re judging people with smaller bodies or anything like that.

  13. Formerly Ella Vader*

    I agree that weight talk should be banned. There are other reasons to ask people not to discuss vaccine eligibility (discuss their own, speculate about others, etc) in the workplace as well. Nobody should need to disclose their private health information in the workplace – even if one person says “I wish I could, but I have to wait because I don’t have one of the conditions on the list” that creates speculation or assumptions about other people who are going for appointments, or makes them feel like they need to explain.

    As well, in some jurisdictions, discussing a vaccine appointment gives away some information about age which should also not be casual conversation at work.

    “I’ll be off Wednesday afternoon for a medical appointment” should be all that’s needed – ideally people wouldn’t be elaborating on this anyway, and nobody should ask further, but I realize that pre-COVID people tended to be casually open about some of the things covered by that (dentist, Hep B shot for my trip to Cuba, physio, checkup). Stopping the vaccine chat means that there’s no/less opportunity for pro-vaccine advocacy or for appointment-networking (“I heard that the pharmacy in Outer Boondocks has evening appointments that aren’t filling up”), but I think the net benefit in making the workplace more comfortable for many people justifies discouraging the conversations about private health information, and management could model this by treating vaccine appointments like any other medical need to miss a little bit of work.

    1. Shad*

      I’m in a workplace where everyone is eligible by virtue of the job. With that, I was absolutely in favor when a coworker emailed us about where she was able to get scheduled more quickly, based on job eligibility, especially since my job is one that fell into a grey area in terms of how various entities interpreted recommendations re: job based eligibility (my job made me eligible in an earlier group than any of the pre existing conditions that risk judgment for associated behaviors; age was the only condition my state prioritized over workplace/environmental eligibility). But I definitely would’ve felt differently if the scoop was based on either her medical eligibility or her assumptions about ours, rather than “this entity is counting all legal workers as eligible and is scheduling pretty easily”.

      1. Formerly Ella Vader*

        Good point, and I’m glad you and your co-workers are able to get vaccinated.

    2. Hamish*

      >even if one person says “I wish I could, but I have to wait because I don’t have one of the conditions on the list” that creates speculation or assumptions about other people who are going for appointments, or makes them feel like they need to explain.

      Yes.

      I’ve had my first vaccination. I’m healthy and pretty young. I also appear to be male and appear to have put on a bit of a beer belly recently. I have no doubt that if I took a couple hours to go get vaccinated, Bill would be glaring at me.

      In reality I’m a transgender man and I’m 4.5 months pregnant. Luckily my workplace is pretty supportive, but wow I can not emphasize enough how uncomfortable I would be in a place where I either had to take Bill’s glares and people’s nasty comments, or disclose something very personal to some very nasty people.

  14. Llellayena*

    Every person vaccinated is another way we ALL stay safe. These arbitrary state guidelines for who goes when are more so the vaccine sites aren’t completely overwhelmed and to reduce hospitalizations (not necessarily overall cases) so the hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. I agree that shutting down the talk about weight, but not vaccination eligibility, seems better on the surface, but a blanket ban is probably more effective. That way it also shuts down asking “why you” of people with invisible qualifying disabilities who may not want to disclose at work and therefore protecting the company from ADA harassment claims. And OMG, shut Bob down! Both the snide remarks AND the glares. “You need to treat people with respect as part of your job and that means…” He’s a disability harassment claim waiting to happen all on his own.

    1. Chilipepper*

      Hard agree Llellayena!
      I think the OP can really help her office reframe the vaccine talk with the focus on more vaccines in more arms means we all stay safe. I was having my own dark thoughts about coworkers and neighbors who “skipped the line” (seriously, more than one lied to cut the line). Reading something Alison said here helped me think differently.

  15. Fatty*

    Oof. I hope this isn’t considered off topic, but I want to share because I imagine OP’s assumption that her employee is being judgmental toward her wife might impact how she feels about that employee and potentially their working relationship, even unconsciously. So: What that employee said is very true. A bunch of things impact BMI, including build and muscle mass, so plenty of people 100% can’t healthily lose enough weight to enter a lower BMI category. Assuming that someone pointing that out means that they’re judging your lower-BMI wife as gaunt, ugly, and skeletal is a HUGE unfair jump.

    (Also, I know OP mentioned that she’s tired of hearing about how BMI is a bullshit but…that’s true. BMI is outdated and indicative of health in no way, and brushing it off as fat people trying to make themselves feel better is uninformed and callous. The “whatever they need to tell themselves to sleep at night” comment reeks of judgment and I wouldn’t be surprised if that judgment shows up in ways that your employees notice, too. It might be worth looking into unconscious biases you might have about fat people to better show up for your employees as a manager on top of shutting down Bill’s wildly inappropriate comments.)

    1. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      All this. The OP really needs to examine her own attitudes toward weight. Her comments (and Bill’s) make me extremely uncomfortable, as a “bmi-obese” person who no one would ever look at and see as obese, as a fat, actuve, and healthy woman (healthier than my skinny husband), as a woman who has suffered from disordered eating. Fat people, healthy or not, deserve to be vaccinated. No one deserves to hear coworkers complain about their weight.

    2. Double A*

      Somewhat ironically for this whole situation, BMI being used as an individual health metric is bullshit, but using BMI as an eligibility metric for the vaccine is actually totally appropriate! BMI can be useful to understand health trends on a POPULATION level. Since the vaccine eligibility needs to consider which groups are at most risk, BMI is useful in the same way age is useful. It doesn’t tell us about an individual’s risk, but we know that people in that group are at higher risk, therefore they are higher up on the list.

      So it doesn’t make any more sense and is just as unkind to complain about “fatties” at the front of the line as it is to complain about “old crones” at the front of the line.

  16. EBStarr*

    Can’t/shouldn’t the LW fire Bill on top of banning everyone else from weight talk? Using the word “fatties” in the office at all (let alone then glaring at someone for getting medical care because of their weight) seems like a firing offense to me.

  17. Lyra Silvertongue*

    Whoa. This workplace sounds like a personal nightmare to be perfectly honest. I’m quite distressed that the OP seems to be more concerned with the BMI comments over the Bill, or at least seems to hold them as equal in seriousness/validity, given that these comments are the majority focus of the letter. I think it’s extremely obvious from context that the BMI comments are not directed at OP’s wife but in-the-moment responses to being targeted by Bill that relate specifically to the person making them (I’m not sure why one would assume otherwise–who even thinks about their coworker’s partners if they’re not there in front of them?). It doesn’t sound like people would be saying these things if they were not being subjected to fatphobic insults from a coworker and that is important context. That is the behaviour you need to shut down, not all discussion of vaccine eligibility. A lot of vaccine awareness is somewhat word of mouth right now – I keep seeing people discover that they might be eligible because of a health condition because they’ve seen other people discuss it. I can see why people in your workplace would feel frustrated that they can’t do that anymore because Bill can’t bring himself to respect people with different bodies to his.

    1. TWW*

      I wouldn’t be too concerned about shutting down vaccine eligibility discussion. There are plenty of places for people to hear about eligibility other than workplace chatter from possibly misinformed coworkers.

  18. Renee Remains the Same*

    TL/DR: This is a rant. I apologize. The OP does not apply. I’m sure she’s lovely. I’m sure her thin spouse is lovely. I have no desire to support those who ridicule fat people NOR those who ridicule thin people to overcome their own insecurities about being fat. My sister is a lovely thin person (who also regularly talks about how she’s gained the COVID 19 and is now fat… even though she’s not). I do not rale against her own mistaken belief that she is somehow unattractive or undeserving because she’s gained or lost weight. And no one should. Someone’s weight should never be a topic of conversation, unless it’s a conversation they’ve initiated with someone who cares about them and respects them. Otherwise, let’s just stick to getting the TPS reports in on time. Mmmmmmkay?

    Our society has reached a point where it is both ok and not ok to acknowledge differences between people. And sure, there’s a ton of articles out there that fat shaming is the only type of stereotypical ridicule that is acceptable. And sure, the clothes designed for fat people are meant to be as unflattering and shapeless as humanly possible. And sure, being fat sucks in so much as people feel compelled to weigh in on any and all aspects of your life, as though you may be incapable of thinking coherent thoughts due to all the fat surrounding your brain.

    As a fat child who became a fat adult and one who faced unkind comments from family and friends throughout my life (Nothing like having dear old grandpa whisper words of sharp rebuke while your teenage self stands in line at a buffet), I have recently decided to take back the word fat. It’s an adjective, nothing more, nothing less. Those who use it as a benchmark for good or bad have their own issues to deal with. If they want to call me fatty, I’ll take it as stating the obvious and tell them so matter of factly. If someone laments that they’ve gotten fat because they gained five pounds – welp, that’s on them. They always look a little sheepish when they see the large woman standing next to them, beaming down at their critical self-assessment. I don’t care if they think fat is bad. I am pretty darn healthy according to my latest physical. Though my knees would probably appreciate a lighter load, which I’ll take into consideration. Because they’re my knees and they support me. Random colleagues who like to think they have a clue about anything — not so much.

    If being fat makes me more susceptible to COVID, isn’t that my cross to bear? Shouldn’t thinner people count themselves lucky that they aren’t on the list of those who need to get the vaccine? Oh, but I get it. The vaccine means they can see their friends or travel or do fun things like eat at a restaurant. So damn all the fat people taking their spot…. except, their spot wouldn’t be available yet anyway. So we’re not taking their spot. In fact fat people are taking their own slot so they don’t give you a potential fatal illness. Look at us being responsible. It’s hard to see I know, all that fat makes responsibility look different. Looks like privilege doesn’t it? And perhaps it would be privilege if people weren’t so intent on throwing down the fat gauntlet to get what they want. Being selfish doesn’t make fat people less responsible… in fact, in this day and age a fat person getting the vaccine in spite of the slew of vitriol hurled at them is the very epitome of grace under pressure. Look at that… fat people being graceful. Shocking.

    1. Robin Ellacott*

      You are awesome.

      I’ve been teased/criticized, and also randomly praised, for skinniness my whole life. I dislike it now and it made me miserable when young. I don’t see why whether I look “healthy” is anyone’s business except my doctor’s, and I don’t think all this stated concern for people’s health comes from actual concern anyway.

      But my experience is absolutely not the same thing as the constant, never ending implication of WRONGNESS and some kind of moral failing that is visited upon people who get aggression for fatness instead. I don’t know fully how that would feel, but it has to be horrible and soul destroying.

      Renee, your “rant” is excellent.

      1. Renee Remains the Same*

        Your experience sounds awful and there’s no need to compare it to mine or anyone else’s. I feel bias is a bit like grief. It’s not a contest to see who has it worse. It just sucks and we all just want to get to the other side of it, to feel better about ourselves and about life in general. The difference is that grief has no end. When someone dies we don’t get to discuss things with them anymore. But bias – man, there’s no reason it needs to exist.

    2. Despachito*

      “Someone’s weight should never be a topic of conversation, unless it’s a conversation they’ve initiated with someone who cares about them and respects them. Otherwise, let’s just stick to getting the TPS reports in on time. Mmmmmmkay?”

      Absolutely.

      I, personally, find it very strange for a manager to tell people “you cannot discuss a particular topic” per se. What about freedom of speech?

      I understand banning hateful speech, body shaming and overall creating toxic environment (which is what Bill is doing, so telling HIM to stop calling people “fatties” is OK and should absolutely be done).

      I also think a manager should intervene if the discussions are becoming too lengthy or escalating and prevent people from doing the actual work.

      But apart from that, would it not be better to let people decide for themselves what they want to talk about/share?

      I would therefore concentrate on this – talk on whatever you want, if you stay polite, respectful and do not spend too much time on it.

      1. Velawciraptor*

        Freedom of speech has nothing to do with it. Freedom of speech, as outlined in the constitution, is about the government being forbidden from compelling or banning speech. Unless LW works for a government entity, the concept doesn’t apply.

        Beyond that, an office isn’t meant to be the marketplace of ideas. It’s meant to be a place where work gets done. While there is a social aspect to that, the importance of not creating a hostile, discriminatory, or unprofessional environment naturally means that certain topics are going to be off the table for discussion. This is what LW was trying to do, albeit in a less than ideally targeted way.

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        Much of what you wrote here is on point, Despachito. I’d gently suggest you look into what freedom of speech refers to, though, to avoid using it in a seemingly misinformed or ambiguous manner.

      3. turquoisecow*

        “ What about freedom of speech?”

        *sigh* The first amendment is amount not having the government police tour speech. Assuming the OP does not work for the government, it does not apply here. Also, it doesn’t apply to hate speech or incitement. You can’t just call your coworkers [racist term] and not experience consequences.

        Also telling people to decide for themselves what to talk about doesn’t help the person Bill is calling a “fatty” and glaring at. They didn’t choose to discuss their weight with Bill, and yet, he’s bringing it up. When you’re surrounded by people discussing a topic, it’s not so easy to say “hey, let’s change the subject.” Trust me, I know. Especially if you’re being hurt by the topic. You’re the lone fat person in a room and all your coworkers are fat shaming, you didn’t choose to discuss this and you can’t demand that they change the topic. The boss can.

        1. Despachito*

          I absolutely agree with you that freedom of speech does NOT mean that I am entitled to say any hurtful thing to anybody. Bill (and anyone who becomes aggressive or unpleasant about any subject) should be definitely asked to cut his crap, and disciplined if he does not.

          My point was that it was perhaps too much to ban ALL talking about vaccination and how you qualify no matter whether you can stay polite about that (first, it is at present a topic of primary interest for all of us, and second, I imagine that by sharing just the facts without becoming emotional you can get a lot of valuable information e.g. where to register, what the reactions to vaccination were and so on), and it would be a pity if you could not get it.

          Of course, it is a sensitive topic, and if somebody is unable to talk about it without becoming abusive/rude, they should avoid the subject entirely. Perhaps this is the case in LW`s workplace, and to ban it was the only way to maintain relative peace, it was just the “I prohibit people to talk about a subject at all” which rubbed me a bit the wrong way.

          But I agree with all of you that what Bill is doing is inappropriate and beyond rude, that he is creating a toxic atmosphere and that he should not be allowed to do that.

      4. Renee Remains the Same*

        I suppose I don’t see how you and I agree. I am straight up saying that the manager should step in and tell people they should not discuss this topic without the person’s consent and desire to discuss it. There are no caveats around it. Colleagues may be your friends, but best to make sure they are before discussing personal matters with them. That includes conversations around weight or medical interventions or even whether they have a significant other. When considering such conversations, the person who wants to know or wants to share their opinion, should follow the lead of the person who would receive said opinion. If the recipient has not offered an invitation to discuss a personal subject…. don’t discuss the subject. To that end, I don’t believe that staff should talk on whatever they want. I believe polite and respectful are subjective terms, which is exceptionally dangerous when referring to the personal issues or characteristics of employees. But, sure, whatever the conversation is – if it’s eclipsing productivity, shut it down.

        1. Despachito*

          “when considering such conversations, the person who wants to know or wants to share their opinion, should follow the lead of the person who would receive said opinion. If the recipient has not offered an invitation to discuss a personal subject…. don’t discuss the subject. ”

          This is spot on, Renee, and I wish I would be able to express it as clearly as you did.

          My understanding was that the ban would include also cases where BOTH parts are willing to share information, and this was the only case I was questioning.

          Otherwise, I could not agree more with you – one-sided discussions on personal issues are basically a no-no even with good friends, let alone at a workplace.

        2. Despachito*

          “the manager should step in and tell people they should not discuss this topic without the person’s consent and desire to discuss it.”

          Amen.

          Yes, this.

          You said admirably accurately what I was awkwardly trying to express, thank you!

  19. CatCat*

    Boy, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t work with Bill beyond keeping an icy civility after those comments and his glares.

    The glares need to stop.

    1. Autism Dad*

      Agreed, but they won’t stop until the OP puts s stop to it — and she doesn’t seem like she wants to deal with the problem.

      She complained about “monitoring the Bills of the world.” That’s her job! She’s not being forced to stay in that position. Everything in her letter tells me that having a good work culture isn’t something thst is important to her — which is why so many of her staff are comfortable body-shaming their co-workers.

  20. chellieroo*

    BMI and vaccine eligibility as a work issue does. not. matter. The LW has no control of any kind over how states are prioritizing eligibility. None. Take it up with the state’s CDC. In fact, contacting your state’s governor or CDC with feedback about eligibility is a way better use of energy (in that there is at least possibility that someone who can change it will hear it) than arguing with people on AAM about whether BMI means anything,

    1. cncx*

      that’s the real reason the weight talk needs to be shut down, this isn’t bill’s or op’s call to make. the relevant local jurisdictions have made the call, that’s it, no one else gets to say who deserves one or not because that call has already been made.

  21. Smuckers*

    BMI was only ever meant to be used on a population (not an individual) level. It’s useful for looking at trends, but it’s *not* supposed to be used as a sole indicator of individual health. It was also developed using exclusively white male bodies, so it doesn’t take into account the full variety of shapes that humans come in.

    I am currently obese. Some of that is because I’m a muscular woman. Some of that is from pandemic weight gain. It is simultaneously possible to be classified as more “obese” than one really feels because of body composition (that’s where the skeletal comments are coming from), to acknowledge that being on the heavier side is a COVID complication (the reason folks are in earlier group), and for *none of this to be anybody else’s business.*

    How sad and unkind that Bill would glare at his coworkers for getting a shot that could very well save their lives. I totally understand vaccine jealousy (even with my BMI, I’m not eligible yet). But even when I’m feeling jealous, I am over the moon happy for every person I know who is less likely to get COVID and die. I think the letter writer needs to take Bill aside and tell him that glaring is not appropriate.

    1. 2QS*

      I’m in a country where vaccination seems to have barely started (I think I know exactly one person here who’s been vaccinated), but the U.S. needs it so much more urgently than we do that I don’t mind waiting a few extra months!

  22. TimeTravlR*

    As much as I want a vaccine and am not yet eligible (a little too young (by just a few years), a little too thin (by just a few BMI points), former rather than current smoker), I can’t begrudge anyone getting one. I wonder to myself sometimes how certain people qualify, but I’d never voice it. Not my business. The point is, people are getting vaccinated, so YAY!

    1. Firecat*

      I feel you there – I have lost 40 lbs which put me a point below being eligible by bmi standards. To me it’s a ha ha! Type thought… I can’t imagine begrudging folks for getting vaccinated! I’m happy for every person who gets vaccinated!

      I’m a bit miffed about the vaccines for the highest bidders… Buts that’s the only group I think deserves any side eye.

      1. CircleBack*

        The “highest bidders” are what are really pissing me off right now. I try my best not to judge people getting shots and think to myself they might have eligibility criteria I’m not aware of. But when those same people try to give me advice on how to get vaccines and when I say “oh, I’m not eligible yet” continue to advise me on ways to get around that – I am judging *real hard.* It’s hard not to feel bitter about people sneaking their way around unenforceable eligibility guidelines or going out of their way to less privileged communities to take advantage of slots they were able to grab because of savvy/privilege.
        But otherwise – the guidelines are because these people are more at risk. If people with more risk than me get vaccines, then that is good, and our scarcity mindset of begrudging anyone who gets something we want is dangerous.

    2. HS Teacher*

      You can get a vaccination early, at least where I am, by doing one of two things:
      1. Call a place that is doing them and ask to be placed on the waitlist. Toward the end of the day, if they have supply they’d need to destroy, they’ll call you. My 18 year old niece got hers this way.
      2. Volunteer at a vaccination pod (if available where you are). I have a few students who got theirs this way through our local university’s vaccination site.

    3. Specks*

      Former smokers are eligible in most states. You should really look into it — hope you can get a vaccine soon!

  23. DG*

    It’s really concerning to me that 1) LW is acting as if “employee hurling insults at fat coworkers” and “employees justifying their right to exist in a higher-BMI body” are equally guilty parties here, and 2) Bill got a slap on the wrist as though he was caught leaving a mess in the communal microwave or spending too much time on Facebook instead of, you know, creating an abusive and hostile workplace.

  24. Miranda*

    Could we just have a moratorium on diet, weight and the whole shebang? I had an eating disorder as a teenager. I’m more or less ok now but my god do I not miss hearing about other people’s weight loss regimes. Lockdown has been fantastic for my mental health in that regard and I am dreading going back to it.

    1. Roaring Twentysomething*

      Hard agree. I work in a very fitness-focused office and was inundated with triggering conversations CONSTANTLY. My boss sold weight loss supplements, there was an ever-present demonization of food, weight loss contests (!!!) …being separated from that has done wonders for my recovery.

      Commenting on other people’s bodies and perceived diets SHOULD be unacceptable and even discussing your own can be triggering for others. You never know which battles people are fighting. I agree with Alison—shutting down body AND diet talk could do a world of good for this team.

  25. AY*

    I shouldn’t still be shocked that people like Bill feel at liberty to say such vicious things at work, but I am. I suppose people like Bill expect that the victims of their bullying will be too ashamed to speak up or seek consequences for the bully. Remember that awful LW from Dear Prudence who posted a photo of a coworker to a fat shaming website? I just went back to reread it, and the LW wrote that, if he were the coworker, he’d be too ashamed to bring up the issue with HR.

  26. Ask a Manager* Post author

    All comments on this post are now going through moderation, so there will be a delay before they show up on the page. Comments that are off-topic, not constructive, or violate the rules at the top of the comment section will not be released.

  27. Roscoe*

    “People should stop asking why someone else qualified for vaccination! ”

    AMEN. Just stop. It doesn’t matter why someone got it. Its not your business. Even if you think they “gamed” the system, leave it alone. Hell, I’d argue even if they told you they gamed the system, its still medical info which isn’t on you to comment on. I wish we could extend this beyond coworkers.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Agreed. The weight comments are the worst part of what OP described, but the comments are unlikely to stop there from the sounds of it. It sounds like people in the OP’s office are ready to be angry about any reason someone gets the vaccine ahead of them, and I’ve seen that play out with people I know as well. People should not feel pressured to disclose health conditions or justify why they got the vaccine, so I’m glad that the OP shut down the eligibility discussions.

      1. Roaring Twentysomething*

        When I got my vaccine yesterday, not even the people running the clinic asked me details on my qualification. If the people giving me the shot don’t need the exact reason, my coworkers certainly do not.

  28. Ellery*

    I agree with everyone who suggests that Bill’s glaring needs to be handled as well. Fat activists are already trying very hard to help fat people overcome feelings of shame and embarrassment and go get the vaccine they are entitled to. Actions like Bill’s only make it harder.

    On a nicer note, I did mention to one of my co-workers that I was getting my first vaccine shot. This surprised her since I am young and healthy, but when I informed her I qualified because of my weight and that she, also a fat woman, likely now qualified as well. She looked into it and we ended up getting our shots on the same day! I kept this to a one-on-one conversation with her because it is a personal manner, but I totally think there is a space between no talking about it and everyone talking about it in an open room. These are times where sharing info can save lives.

  29. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    OP, I think you and your organization are doing good things handling this as you are. My condolences that you’re dealing with a bad apple; remember that’s all it is and don’t let him wear off on you.

  30. Aspie_Anything*

    I agree with everything Alison said except the banning of “diet talk”. Should people ever be allowed to comment on another person’s body or diet? Oh hell no. But if two vegans/keto dieters/bodybuilders/employees just interested in food and nutrition want to talk about their eating plans or swap tips in the break room, that’s fine. I know people get upset at overhearing it, but there are lots of things people don’t like overhearing about that we all just have to live with because it’s part of life (religion, politics, kids, finances, conspiracy theories, etc)

    Food is personal and cultural and many people (myself included) view the way we fuel and move our bodies as a hobby. Treating it as a taboo hobby because others might be “offended” to overhear it is not going to go over well. Besides, everyone talks about food – it’s everywhere! A you-can’t-talk-about-diet-unless-you-eat-anything-and-everything goes a bit far.

    I realize this isn’t exactly what Alison was suggesting, but I see comments all the time about how “diet talk” shouldn’t be allowed in offices and it’s frustrating. Just like someone talking about their kids isn’t a judgement on someone else for not having them, me talking about something new I’m trying with my body isn’t a judgement on anyone else’s body.

    Ending rant now

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I think what this would boil down to in a workplace is, don’t talk about sensitive subjects unless you know the people you’re talking to, and the people who would overhear you, well enough to know the subject will not be harmful. If you and another coworker are on similar eating plans, it’s fine to talk about that between the two of you, as long as you know that no one else is in the vicinity that could be upset by food and diet talk. And if there are other people around and you don’t know for sure how they feel about it, wait and talk about it another time.

      Trying to mitigate the level of hurt we cause to other people is a very important part of being a good citizen of the world, and it’s worth waiting for a different time to have the conversation if you can’t be sure you’re not accidentally causing harm to someone else.

    2. Yorick*

      Honestly, there are some vegans/keto dieters/whatevers who don’t seem to understand the difference between swapping tips and nagging people, so I’d be kinda ok if this meant they’d miss out on a couple of conversations. There are plenty of online communities that they can turn to for encouragement and new ideas.

      1. Aspie_Anything*

        Eh…and lots of people don’t understand the difference between bragging on their kids and pestering others about their reproductive plans, but we don’t ban family talk. Same with religion (I worked in a Catholic-heavy office a few years ago and Lent and after-work Friday fish frys were always a big bonding thing with the Catholic employees). Many people have suffered at the hands of organized religion, but we don’t make sure they don’t overhear anything about it at work.

        As a manager, I wouldn’t act on someone complaining that they overheard Sue and Sally comparing carb-free breads and talking about lost dress sizes. Actually, I would probably be a little confused by the complaint. But Sue and Sally would hate the conversation we would have in my office with HR present if they told someone else in the office to switch to carb-free bread to lose a dress size.

        Everyone talks about food – where they went for dinner last night, what they cooked over the weekend, the cookies they have to make for a bake sale, etc. It’s so normal and human and a big part of our daily lives. I can’t imagine the hard feelings and frankly, behind-the-back snide remarkes leadership would be inviting by allowing all of that but prohibiting chit chat about about dietary choices.

        When I first got into running, I would eat a PB&J every day before leaving work so I would have something to run on. Kind of an odd thing to eat at 4:30p, and when asked about it, I explained it made those miles easier. Then people playfully joked about my “after school snack” (I didn’t mind). Should that be banned? It’s all a very vague standard to try to impose.

        And it gets even murkier with things like kosher, ethical veganism, Lenten fasts, Ramadan, etc where you may end up infringing on what some people can or can’t share about their religious practices relative to what people of other faiths can share.

        Or, do you try to parse through who is doing intermittent fasting for insulin control or weight loss and who is observing Ramadan when policing discussion? Managerial nightmare and waste of time and goodwill.

  31. ThePriceisWrongBob*

    In my state, a really wide range of co-morbidities and job types are eligible now, so it’s increasingly a stupid thing to ask how someone was eligible. Why does it matter if someone was born with a hole in their heart or developed a thyroid problem later in life? Being in the office is a much greater risk for people with co-morbidities. Call me crazy, but I don’t want my colleagues to die.

    1. Chilipepper*

      I asked a boss here how she got the vaccine and I meant how as in how did you make the appointment, not how did you qualify. she started to answer how she qualified and I was mortified! Our systems are such a mess, it is not clear how to get an appointment.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      Also, and this might be sliding into the danger zone with regard to forbidden topics above so I’m going to apologize in advance if I misjudged where Alison set the boundaries, but certain high-risk conditions (COPD and Asthma are coming to mind) can cause obesity. So Bill clearly isn’t making sincere or well-researched arguments regarding eligibility (and even if he was, it wouldn’t be acceptable to call people names), he’s making snap moral judgements and is apparently okay with implying that he’d rather his fat coworkers get ill or worse than seeing them get a vaccine before he does! I’m underweight, but I wouldn’t feel particularly safe working with someone who’s willing to act like that either.

  32. Properlike*

    I just qualified per my doctor’s office. I’m WFH and was prepared to wait until mid-summer. But they called and said, “Come get your vaccine this week.” They didn’t say why I qualified, but there’s a list beyond BMI (which had not even occured to me): heart murmur, borderline asthma, borderline high blood pressure, family history of clotting disorder. I think I’m pretty healthy, and all of these are genetic issues of a generally healthy family… but the health system where I’m a patient thinks otherwise.

    Happy to help do my part and get vaccinated, because it brings us all closer to immunity, and turning it down doesn’t mean it’ll automatically go to someone more in need. But this whole thread has cemented my decision not to tell anyone about it, because I don’t want to deal with comments or speculation.

  33. Firecat*

    I recommend you have Bill apologize to the office and/or make amends. Part of Bills job is to get along with his co-workers so they can work well together and he just poisoned the well. Frankly I’d put Bill on a pip for this as it’s egregiously aggressive and nasty behavior towards his coworkers. Thwbglaring should stop yesterday and I would have 0 tolerance for it continuing.

    I think if you can also detach your employees comments about their health from how they feel about you and others that would help you come at an office solution without baggage towards your higher BMI employees. It’s highly unlikely they think your wife looks bad or were even implying that.

  34. Sara without an H*

    First off, OP, you really have my sympathy. I know how frustrating this must be for you.

    That said, I do think Bill needs more attention. Good on you for shutting down the nasty comments, but glaring at coworkers is observable behavior and he needs to know that you’ve noticed it.

    Good luck!

  35. James*

    “While we’re on the topic, here’s a PSA: People should stop asking why someone else qualified for vaccination!”

    To avoid annoying the site owner, I’ll just say: YES!! Reasons are not always obvious, and the obvious reasons are not always the true ones.

    As for advice, my script would be “We are encouraging as many people to get vaccinated as we can while being in compliance with fed/state/local requirements. The day you’re allowed to, let us know and we’ll do what we can to help you get the vaccine.” Then, if they continue, take them aside and explain to the offenders that this cannot happen again, with a clear statement of what the consequences will be. I would also tell staff staff, individually, that if anyone harasses them about getting the vaccine (and it IS harassment, perhaps not in the legal but certainly in the moral sense) they should come to you as soon as possible, and that you support them 100%.

    This has nothing to do with the vaccine. It’s a matter of professionalism (or rather, a lack thereof) and of respect for coworkers. Think of it this way: If you gave a devout Muslim the flexibility to follow a prayer schedule, and people were giving that worker the stink-eye over it, how long would you put up with that? Or what if it was a woman, and the men in the office were disrespecting her on the grounds that women shouldn’t be in this line of work? This really isn’t different. Okay, “vaccinated” isn’t a protected class, but that really should be seen as an absolute minimum standard, not the standard we wish to aspire to. And I would bet a fair amount of money the people disrespecting those with high BMI are disrespecting others as well. And if you cave to the harassers here, you’ll demonstrate to those in protected classes that you won’t help them when they need it. You’ll lose their trust, likely for good.

    Open disrespect of colleagues is something that should never be tolerated, and that should be shut down immediately. The self-serving justification for the behavior isn’t relevant.

  36. Robin Ellacott*

    Anybody using the word “fatties” in my office would be having a serious meeting with HR/management within minutes.

    Also, whether certain BMIs re healthy or not is really not the issue – it’s not our place to opine on the healthiness of our colleagues at all, and healthiness is not some kind of moral issue that deserves our judgement.

  37. LizM*

    I think it’s okay to share info about who is eligible. It’s been super unclear in my county/state which groups are eligible, and we’ve got people who are eligible based on their job classification. So I’ve been covering this on our staff calls. Just relaying the information about what phase our county is in, broadly who is in that category, and (for work related eligibility), what documentation they’ll need. I only discuss individual employees’ eligibility directly in private conversations, and then only if the employee brings it up.

    It seems like what OP really needs to shut down is the conversations about whether eligible people are deserving of the vaccine and whether the government is making the right call by vaccinating the people they’re vaccinating. And it’s worth taking a closer look at the broader culture in your office that conversations are so quickly devolving into some pretty toxic discussions of body image.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      To make matters more complicated, in my area the state vaccination sites are open to all groups up to 1C, but the county-run sites haven’t been getting enough vaccine supply and are still at 1B. The hospitals and pharmacies are allowed to set their own criteria up to the state eligibility and most use the state’s rules, but some aren’t, and some seem to have split 1C into subgroups. And each of these systems has a different registration. We’re also near a state line and half my office is under a different system.

      I mentioned at a staff meeting the other day that a lot of people in my neighborhood seem to be having luck securing appointments via the phone line (not the website, for some reason) for one of the state mass vax sites. I also see info going around about which hospital systems’ lists are open to all and which require that you’re an existing patient. Banning that kind of info-sharing seems like a managerial overreach. Eligibility is such a mess here that people do have a genuine need for assistance from others.

      But in my office we’re all professional – I don’t care if someone finds the info valuable for themselves, for a family member, because they’re helping a neighbor get an appointment, etc. I don’t want to know anything about anyone’s eligibility, I just want more people vaccinated.

  38. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    Not only isn’t it your business why your coworkers are eligible, but it’s different in every state, territory, and Canadian province, and what you knew last week may not still apply. (Massachusetts’ latest announcement divides us into more different age groups than they were talking about last week.)

    A lot of people work in different states/provinces/territories than they live in, which means that a condition that qualifies you for a vaccine might not qualify Bob from Accounting, or vice versa. That’s another reason not to spend your energy worrying about why someone else is eligible, on top of it not being your business, and envy not being good for anyone.

  39. Amber Rose*

    You absolutely can tell people it’s not OK to glare at others at work! You shut it down the same way you shut down nasty, vile comments.

    I think it’s also worth noting that while it’s not ideal that it’s harder for staff to share information, “one bad apple ruins the bunch” is a saying for a reason. Talking about this stuff is a privilege that quite a few people can not be trusted with. If people complain at you for putting this rule in place, you can just point out that it’s a priority for you that people work without listening to negative commentary around weight.

    I disagree with the commenters who think you’re fatphobic or whatever. I’m fully in support of what you’ve said and more or less how you’ve gone about this, I just think you need to be stricter with Mr Glares-a-Lot.

  40. Bob*

    Bill is the problem so you need to deal with Bill.

    Blanket bans seem like a nice overall solution becasue they are simple but they cause collateral problems as you are seeing.
    You need to tell Bill that his comments are unacceptable and fat shaming will not be tolerated just as any other discriminatory speech will not.

    Also by May 1st this problem should disappear but don’t try to wait out the clock, deal with Bill today.

    And refuse to hear his ‘arguments’, he will try to find an angle to let him act the way he wants, you don’t owe him “good faith” until he finds a wedge issue to beat you over the head with. Your the boss and the only reason you need to shut down his behaviour is that you want to.

    His behaviour is not a protected class.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I don’t think this needs to be an either/or situation. Yes, the OP should have a conversation with Bill personally, as you say. Absolutely. But I think there’s also some benefit in a general announcement that any discussion of weight is inappropriate for the office. It sends a clear message to everyone, and as Alison said, will eliminate discussion of weight/diet talk in other contexts, where Bill might not be the sole offender.

      1. James*

        You also have to consider how it looks to the victims. They need the reassurance of knowing their boss has their back. They don’t need to see Bill chewed out in a company-wide meeting, but they need some indication that the company takes this seriously.

        1. Bob*

          Bill does not need a public chewing out, he does need to be told that his behaviour is unacceptable one on one as he would for any other disciplinary action.
          Rescinding the blanket ban is to eliminate the unintended effects as mentioned:

          “Some people complained because they aren’t able to share vaccine info easily or quickly”.

          You want people to be able to share vaccine info and not be gagged because Bill thinks its his prerogative to treat others badly.

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          Yes, any chewing-out should NOT be done publicly. In the OP’s position, I’d have a private conversation with Bill first, then communicate to the whole team that while it’s fine for them to discuss the vaccine, you don’t want to hear talk about who “deserves” it, or about weight or diets or related matters, because it creates an environment where a lot of people will feel uncomfortable at work, and everyone should feel like they are welcome and valued in the workplace.

  41. Carlie*

    I agree with shutting it down entirely. However, if anyone really needs a rebuttal that might get through to the Bills, one could remind them that fat people are biased against in all other areas of healthcare – higher health insurance premiums, the inability to get life insurance at all, longer time to proper diagnoses due to ther health problems being blamed on their weight. Getting a vaccine a month sooner doesn’t even begin to tip the scales (heh) in their balance. So no worries, fat people are still discriminated against in all the ways the Bills of the world want them to be.

    (Or, more bluntly: That overweight person has been turned down for life insurance due solely to their BMI, so if they die of Covid their family will end up on welfare and your tax dollars will go to support all of them. Is that what you want? I didn’t think so.)

  42. blink14*

    Each state has medical condition lists to qualify, and how many you need, so in some states my chronic illnesses qualify me by the guidelines, and in others, I would need to use my BMI to have enough qualifying conditions. It’s insane, and as someone who has lifelong medical conditions which are “silent”, I’ve been fuming for months about how poorly these lists have been created in many states.

    BMI is total BS, the medical community knows it. But the truth is, it’s still used as a measurement term, and a large percentage of adults in the US are considered overweight to obese by using the scale. And the truth is also that many people with a very high BMI have other conditions that go with being overweight. BMI has never been an accurate measurement for me, no matter my weight. In this case, I would take anything to get the vaccine because I am at such a high risk for complications from my chronic illnesses.

    I think the best thing to do is what you are doing – set the standard of no questions asked, day off to get your vaccination, and not tolerating ANY negative conversation. I’ve been very open with my office about qualifying early due to medical conditions, but I’ve been vague as to what those are. Everyone has been supportive. And if they aren’t? IDNGAF.

  43. You can call me flower, if you want to*

    I think you might have a bigger problem here than you realize. Why does your staff feel like it’s even remotely acceptable to talk to each other this way? Bill’s comments are more than unkind, they are cruel. It might be worth reflecting if the environment is toxic in other ways and if you can address that, just to make sure you’re attacking the root of the issue and not just the effect.

  44. some dude*

    This is a little OT but, this stage into the vaccinations, if someone wants one let ’em have one. Let’s not shame people for jumping the line or whatever. We are a few weeks away from having to have massive pushes to get people to get vaccinated because all of us eager to get our shots will have had them, and we’ll have to convince those reluctant to get the shot(s). In my area (the SF bay area) we are already seeing certain eligible populations under-vaccinated, and part of the reason is because of misinformation they are seeing on social media. I want front-line workers and teachers and inmates to be vaccinated, but the more of us that are vaccinated the better off we all are, so shaming folks for getting their jabs ahead of schedule just seems pointless to me. And it is none of our gd business why someone is or is not eligible.

  45. sequined histories*

    It’s pretty hard for me to imagine Bill is just a delight to work with in every other way.

    Even jerks need money to survive, though, and I assume he’s bringing something of value to the business. Nobody should have to put up with his glaring, though. Doing that consistently—especially in this context—is just awful, and definitely edges into harassment and intimidation territory. It’s entirely possible to refrain from glaring at specific people at specific times, and you need to tell him that in no uncertain terms.

    Forbidding all talk about the shape, size, and physical appearance of all human bodies seems like a good rule in general, probably a better one than focusing on vaccine-specific issues: we don’t talk about the appearance of our bodies here any more. End of story.

  46. Daisy-dog*

    If a co-worker called me a “fatty” and was angry that I was doing something to protect myself from a deadly illness (implying that I didn’t deserve it because I’m in such poor health), then I would never want to speak to that person again. I would probably also cry, but not until I got to my car. The fact that your employees were even able to communicate a coherent response – let alone one with nuance about how different types of bodies exist – is impressive.

    Please restrict conversations on weight of any kind. That is what the source of the problem is. Over the next few weeks, the eligibility will grow to include different age groups, different types of professions, and eventually to everyone. It may or may not be helpful to let your team talk about it.

    And maybe read Body Respect or Anti-Diet to learn more about what your employees are talking about – which is **not** insulting your wife.

  47. TootsNYC*

    I am 100% in favor of taxpayer funded health care solutions.
    But I think that the fat shaming from people like Bill is going to be a thing. It’s already a thing, but add to it any level of public health or public funding, and we are ALL going to need to be ready to be a voice that shuts down people like Bill.

    We shouldn’t leave this up to our managers. We can speak up too.

  48. TWW*

    OP, what kind of heck hole do you work in? Am I wrong in thinking that in most workplaces Bill would have been sent home immediately and likely fired?

  49. Sparkles McFadden*

    The issue to be addressed is Bill’s unprofessional behavior. Weight/BMI has nothing to do with anything at all. (I’d be pretty happy that everyone I work with would be getting immunized, so I am questioning Bill’s logic as well.)

    What if Bill said “Why are they letting decrepit old people get the shot?” or “Why bother wasting a shot on someone with cancer who is going to die anyway?” I am going to go ahead and guess that would get shut down pretty quickly.

    I’d have a serious conversation with Bill if the nonsense continues.

  50. Ciela*

    Wow, Bill sounds like a butt.
    I’d almost be tempted to ask him who he thinks “really needs it”, but that’s likely a can of worms you don’t need to open. I’m sure BMI isn’t the only underlying health condition being considered in your area. I bet high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, a few others, or “as directed by your primary care physician” are also included.
    My state just opened up Monday to include underlying conditions. My husband and I got ours yesterday. And since our dept. of public health did a horrible job of alerting anyone that they were on group 1C, I did tell all my co-workers. Some I knew were now over the age limit. Everyone else, I told “just in case that info is useful to you”. And if they volunteered that they still did not qualify, “well make sure your parents and in-laws get theirs!”

  51. Observer*

    OP you say “(I shut him down immediately, but I can’t really stop him from glaring.)

    Why can’t you stop the glaring? If it’s something you can see, it’s something you can tell him to stop.

    Also, have you been making sure that’s he is not doing anything else? Like sabotaging people’s work, not passing on information or messages that come in when people are out for their shots or making other snarky comments to those he considers unworthy of shots?

    so it’s especially weird hearing that she is apparently gaunt, ugly and skeletal from people who were perfectly friendly to her at zoom happy hours and things

    Really? Has anyone actually said that to you? If not, why on earth do you even think that this is what they are saying? Perhaps you are projecting a bit? Whether about weight or just about how judgemental people can be about anyone they have ever seen.

    I’m sure that the slimmer people in the office feel the same way.

    Given that no one has actually attacked those people, I find it interesting that your worried enough about them that it’s lending weight to your decision to ban the discussion, while an explicit attack on fat people doesn’t seem to factor into the discussion. But if you REALLY think that the slimmer people in the office are feeling attacked by heavier people defending their right to exist while fat, you could enlist them in your campaign to just shut down all the weight and diet talk. That protect them from hearing about people who can’t / don’t want to be at the officially healthy BMI as well as keeping the the people with a high BMI from being attacked.

    And whatever you do, make Bill behave himself. You CAN and most definitely SHOULD make him stop this nonsense.

  52. AthenaC*

    “here’s a PSA: People should stop asking why someone else qualified for vaccination! Few people would ask colleagues for a rundown of their health conditions, but much of the time that’s what this question translates to.”

    …. I think that’s literally what the OP was trying to do …? It sounds harsh but seems like it’s necessary in their particular environment since one or more people apparently can’t be adults about a situation that’s beyond their control.

  53. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I’m just salty that, and debating taking a trip to Wisconsin because of it, asthma is NO consideration in Minnesota where I am.

    Mostly, I’m okay with my lungs, but whenever I get more than a mild cold, I have trouble breathing. If I get it, I’m hosed. We’re still only doing the elderly and those whose illness is so serious they need oxygen.

    I do feel that illness in non-old people should just be more of a factor. It certainly has a disparate impact in my LGBT community because a lot of people have health conditions from lack of insurance, stress, family abuse etc.

    1. Wendyroo*

      If you have the ability to travel to get the shot, do ittttt!!! Viruses don’t care about state lines and neither should you.

    2. blink14*

      Fellow asthmatic here. It is crazy to me that so many places aren’t including asthma, or local medical groups have had to fight to get it on the list. Having asthma leads to so many other issues and complications. It may not directly put you at severe risk for Covid complications, but it’s not a well understood disease either. Why not include a chronic lung disease for a virus that hits the lungs? It’s incredibly frustrating.

  54. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Meanwhile, I have asthma and it’s not an eligibility concern in Minnesota- we’re still just doing the elderly. Excuse, but I can’t breathe when I get sick… just because I’m not old…

  55. Spicy Tuna*

    My husband’s doctor has the vaccine and as he is due for a checkup and to renew some prescriptions, he is getting it at the end of the month (YAY!). We are under 50 and self employed, but he would qualify regardless because he is obese.

    I am not obese and have no underlying health conditions AND as a self employed / WFH person, I perceive very little risk in waiting. Hubby’s doctor wants to get shots in arms and emailed hubby that he will make up a reason if I come in.

    I am very conflicted about this – this is my doctor as well but only because he was assigned to me by the insurance company. I haven’t been to a doctor in about a decade. In addition, he works out of a community health clinic and most of the clientele are some combo of Medicaid / Medicare / elderly. So I feel like I would be literally taking the place of someone more deserving.

    1. aarti*

      Virtually all public health officials have said that if you are eligible to get the vaccine you should get it. You are making it safer for everyone, including pregnant people like me who won’t be getting it for a while.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        I think they are saying they are not eligible to get it yet. But I agree that if a doctor is offering it to you, you should take it anyway. One more vaccinated person is always a good thing.

    2. blink14*

      Every person deserves it, and every person that gets the vaccine is doing a service to their household, local community, and the public. Herd immunity is crucial. I wouldn’t want to be in a situation where is someone is blatantly lying to get me into an eligible group, so if that’s your concern, it’s understandable.

      But this idea that someone deserves it “more” should be long gone by now – states are opening up eligibility more broadly, supply is better than it was when the vaccine rollout first started. And the truth is, no one knows how Covid will effect them if they get it – so many young, healthy people have gotten it and are living with potentially life long, severe after effects. Why take the chance? Why take the chance of potentially infecting someone else? There are people who can’t get the vaccine due to valid medical reasons, and the rest of the population should be protecting the vulnerable by getting the vaccine to achieve herd immunity. If not for yourself, do it for others.

  56. Amethystmoon*

    If anything, working from home has brought about a welcome relief from food police-type comments at work. Also, I can finally eat some healthier foods I like such as fish, vegetable curry, and spicy vegetable chili without people complaining about microwave smells (yay). I hope that Bill realizes the vast majority of people who are overweight have probably been trying for years not to be. Dieting is not always a successful endeavor for everyone, due to lots of reasons. Maybe it is a good thing we overweight people are finally getting something we need?

    1. Despachito*

      It is absolutely none of Bill`s (or anyone`s, for that matter) business whether his co-workers are obese. He has no right to dictate what they should or should not eat, nor are they under any obligation whatsoever to explain, or even apologize for, their dietary choices.

      Gosh, I would find it intrusive to discuss this even with my very good friends (unless they themselves actively ask my opinion, and even so, I would proceed with extreme caution).

      I would not PROHIBIT this topic as such (because I think it exceeds the boss`s power to act as a censor), but I would make it clear that it is a very personal matter, and everyone is perfectly within their rights to bluntly say something along “this is absolutely not an appropriate thing to discuss, let us concentrate on the new teapot report”.

      The problem is not that they talk about vaccination and how they qualify (cutting this may mean that somebody might not get an important information), the problem is the disrespect and verbal attacks, and the goal should be to stop these, not the vaccination talk in general.

  57. Kella*

    I sympathize with the folks criticizing the BMI by talking about how sickly they’d be if they were actually in the “correct” range, because they likely have had the BMI system used against them repeatedly in seeking normal healthcare.

    But I agree that shutting down body talk is the way to go here. Even though the BMI is a crap method to evaluate health, people’s anger towards that system is legitimate, and being skinny does not being healthy, it’s also not okay to criticize people for being unhealthy or for “looking” unhealthy, large or small!

    In addition to being fat-shaming, Bill’s comments are infuriating because saying people with a high BMI don’t “really need” the vaccine is a bit like saying someone who has had a heart attack doesn’t “really need” heart surgery. Our culture thinks that these types of health issues are fully in an individual’s control and they can choose to not have them (and to clarify, I’m using the word “issue” here to mean “topic” rather than “problem” because having a high BMI itself is not necessarily a health problem). And because these people “chose” to have these “problems” that means they don’t deserve to receive help when they need it. No one is in complete control of their body’s state of health or shape and even if they were, they would still deserve help when problems arose!

  58. AnotherLibrarian*

    I read this early this morning and I’ve been debating how to respond to it. I think there’s more here going on then vaccine eligibility. I’m not sure how to expound on that, but it sounds like people have felt attacked for their bodies and are responding defensively. That’s what happens when people get attacked. I think the LetterWriter really needs to take a hard look at the culture that she is fostering in her workplace. The fact that Bill felt safe making such a comment doesn’t bode well, that the LetterWriter chose to say some pretty cruel things in her letter (which Allison edited out since I read first read this, as is her right), and the fact that the LetterWriter thinks people are attacking her wife all suggests that there’s more going on here. It feels toxic in ways that have nothing to do with vaccines, but maybe vaccines have successfully brought to the surface something worth digging into about the culture.

    1. Observer*

      but it sounds like people have felt attacked for their bodies and are responding defensively.

      It sounds like they are reacting defensively to actual attacks- this is not a matter of perception that could be wrong.

  59. nnn*

    Not a whole solution, but as a communication strategy within whatever approach you decide to take, I wonder if it might be helpful to refer to vaccine eligibility talk AND weight talk as “personal medical information.”

    The utility of this is it emphasizes the seriousness. “No discussing or speculating on people’s personal medical information.” “We could get in trouble if people feel pressured to disclose personal medical information in the workplace.”

  60. gbca*

    I saw this written in a vaccine search group, and I think it applies here:

    “I agree that the tiers and vaccination order don’t make sense. I would not have come up with this order. But someone in government made that decision and those are the rules.

    It is not okay to fault or shame people for wanting to get the vaccine when they are eligible. The ethics of order of vaccination is not their burden to carry. We all deserve to be vaccinated. We all deserve to feel safe. It’s been 1 year since the first lockdown and it’s been a hard year for everyone.

    If you are eligible by the guidelines – get vaccinated. Don’t wait. That is the ethical thing to do. It lowers community spread. It keeps hospital beds open. It keeps businesses open. The ethical thing to do is to get vaccinated when you are eligible.

    If you are unhappy with the vaccination order (as you should be) you can look to our government leaders. They are at fault for the tier categorization and for being so slow with the vaccine rollout, logistics, and transparency. They all knew the vaccine was coming and yet took their sweet time and only started making plans well after the vaccines were in our community sitting in freezers. If things were better planned by the government (local, state, and federal) then we’d all have been vaccinated by now.

    Turning on each other is not the solution. Holding our government accountable is. I know a lot of people in this community have been very vocal in giving feedback to local government. The good news is that they are learning from their mistakes, course correcting, and speeding everything up. My hope is that in the next few weeks everyone who wants a vaccine will get one.”

    1. Old and Don’t Care*

      I think the quotes about the order of the rollout are well said.

      I also think it is patently untrue to state that if this were better planned by federal, state and local governments we’d all be vaccinated by now. No country on the planet has achieved this, nor even close. And states are doing a decent job pushing out the supply they have, averaging over 75% distributed on any given day. Even if you believe that the number should somehow be 85-90% that would not mean that everyone in the country would be vaccinated. There were some hiccups and issues at the beginning of the rollout, but supply was still so limited that they didn’t really have a material impact on the numbers. And I agree that mistakes are being learned from. But it’s just ludicrous to state that everyone would be vaccinated now under any scenario.

  61. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    I have approved full days for vaccinations

    Is..this a thing?! Where I am you’d make an appointment ideally outside work hours but if not then at a time to minimise disruption to the business. It would be unheard of to give a day off (outside PTO) for a vaccine!

    1. Black Horse Dancing*

      My work didn’t give us the day off but we could get the shot on company time.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Hmm… my shot appointment was technically within work hours but since I’m not required to be in the building, and it only took up 20 minutes, nobody minded. Especially since the shots were set up by work so they knew the time was during work hours

    3. blink14*

      Yes, it’s to encourage people who may feel like they can’t take the time off or even as an incentive, especially those who may be hourly employees. It’s a battle in many places to get any appointment at all, you can’t be picky. And knowing you can take a full paid day off when you secure that appointment is a huge relief to people.

    4. Kris*

      Appointments are so hard to find in my area that eligible people are traveling up to two hours (within the state) to get appointments. My entire office is now eligible due to the nature of our work, and the powers that be have made it clear that they will not require anyone to take leave to get the vaccine. The emphasis is find an appointment, whenever, wherever, get that vaccine and let’s all get back to work!

  62. No Name #1*

    Bill’s comments are discriminatory towards people with high BMIs, especially since he was making these comments in the context of discussion pre-existing medical conditions that qualify people for the vaccine. I’m glad that he stopped making the comments verbally, but the glaring must stop because it will continue to make the work environment toxic and potentially hostile. Allowing him to disrespect and intimidate his colleagues on the basis of their weight sends the messages that the employer might tolerate other forms of prejudicial behavior.

  63. Atlantic Beach Pie*

    I made this handy guide to determine if it’s okay to comment on someone’s body in a professional setting. Feel free to print it out and hang it up next to your desk!

    HOW TO TELL IF YOU SHOULD MAKE A COMMENT ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE’S BODY AT WORK
    Is there a wardrobe malfunction involved?
    NO —-> Keep your mouth shut!
    YES —-> “Hey Bob, check your zipper.”

    This applies to your own body as well! Let’s all just agree to the pleasant fiction that we are floating brains.

  64. Double A*

    I wish people would stop harping about line jumping and who is “deserving” at this point. It is looking very promising that in 2-3 months there will be is enough for everyone who wants one, and the conversation will shift to the vaccine hesitant and it’s going to get nasty in a whole new way. So let’s save our energy for that, okay? (Just kidding. Please, let’s all be positive about vaccines).

    I really get that people are impatient for this vaccine. I know it’s been a long time and we are all tired. But if you want a vaccine, you will be able to get one very soon (yes, in the scheme of things, 3 months is very soon). And in the meantime, even if you get it, you can’t really let loose. So let’s focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

  65. RadManCF*

    Dunno if it’s been mentioned already, but it could be worth reminding OPs staff that vaccine eligibility isn’t just a question of a given person’s health issues, but also one of occupation. I feel like I’m stating the obvious, but in general, certain occupations, such as health care, public safety, public works, and certain manufacturing workers have been given higher priority for vaccines than the general public. Many of these people are not in idea physical condition.

  66. SnappinTerrapin*

    I have opinions on almost every topic.

    When I ask myself whether expressing those opinions in the workplace is constructive, it is amazing how many are filtered out.

    Just saying.

  67. Esmeralda*

    Really, I wish OP would say: “No talking about other people’s bodies. None. Zero.”

    That covers a multitude of unintentional AND a$$hole sins.

    1. Despachito*

      I agree, Esmeralda!

      I`ve always felt that talking about coworker`s bodies is inappropriate. There were times when I would sometimes make a compliment (like “this shirt looks good on you” for a person of my own sex), today I would be wary even with that. Perhaps I would say “hey, nice shirt, where did you get it” (I`d feel that this is more about the shirt as a piece of clothing I like, while in the former there was a hint on her body which she could feel as intrusive), but probably I`d avoid it altogether.

      Workplace should be primarily about work, not about our bodies.

  68. Despachito*

    I hate it that being overweight is laden with so many negative connotations reaching far more than something-which-is-not-perfect, and the implications that fat people should be somehow ashamed of themselves, as if it was a flaw of character.

    Purely in terms of health, it is probably healthier to be “normal weight”, but none of us is – or can be – “Practically Perfect” in every aspect of our lives! We have many imperfections, but almost none of them is judged as harshly as excessive weight. Nobody will probably ostracize or shame you because you smoke or do not exercise regularly (although it is definitely healthier not to smoke and exercise).

    I was overweight for most of my adult life, and shedding a few pounds did not make me smarter or better person, and did not change my character in the slightest.

    I am convinced that those who feel the urge to criticize other people`s bodies are themselves insecure to the point that they need to humiliate someone to feel better. It is not about the criticized person, it is 100 % about them, but they absolutely should cut it out (and think what could THEY do about THEIR OWN lives to feel good without needing such a cruel and ugly crutch of hurting and humiliating other people.)

    Sorry, this was a bit off-topic, but I felt the need to say it. As a child and a teenager, I overheard my share of nasty remarks and they stung for months. End of rant. :)

  69. Former Employee*

    Eventually, it will be impossible to speak about anything except the work itself and possibly the weather.

    What needs to be banned is jerk behavior. Kids understand it. They call someone like Bill a bully.

    It’s simple. Do not make comments about coworkers, their bodies, their religion, etc.

  70. PspspspspspsKitty*

    Hey OP – I think a good way to look at this is realizing that people are scared. The whole Covid thing hasn’t been handled very well in the US and the CDC is doing a terrible job by leaving out vulnerable populations. It’s a sucky situation all around so I can understand why people are angry. If Bill is the cause of this talk, address it with him directly. If it’s the whole office, then address it as a whole. Judgmental comments about weight or any health condition is not okay.

  71. Dynamic*

    We have quite a few people in my office that were eligible in the first round. Since they expanded the eligibility (or maybe the right phrase is moved to the next tier?) more people have appointments. We have not had any of the nastiness that happened in the letter.

    A strange thing did happen to me when I became eligible. A few people started sending me links to article about people who died after getting the second shot. Of course it hasn’t been proven it was the vaccine and the articles clearly state that doctors/pathologists/ME’s say the person could have had an unknown underlying health condition but now I’m a bit scared (appointment is tomorrow). If I was working in the OP’s office, I would try to avoid mentioning it all, except maybe directly to my manager and ask it be kept confidential so avoid the comments and looks.

    1. sequined histories*

      Get the shot! Some people will die tomorrow. There’s a tiny chance one of them will be you. But there’s almost no chance that you will die tomorrow BECAUSE of the shot. Just traveling somewhere in a car is vastly more dangerous than getting this shot. If you want to lower your risk dying, cut back on behaviors that are higher risk. Don’t neglect to do something that actually lowers your risk of dying.

  72. Sherri*

    My state’s eligibility is determined purely by age (with a few exceptions like first responders), and this is EXACTLY why that was a good call. People will lie (oops, I did the BMI calculation wrong, my bad), risk factors hard hard to verify in the sign up process, and it causes resentment (see above). The governor was heavily criticized, but it was pointed out that our small state has millions of people who could qualify with one of the risk factors, so they’d have to find another way to prioritize anyway.

    And BTW – we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation. I’m not a fan of our governor, but this was a good call.

  73. Database Developer Dude*

    The discussion absolutely needs to be shut down. I’ve already gotten the first shot, and will be getting the second shot on Monday, and I wouldn’t otherwise be eligible, except that my employer has me on a contract in a government office with high ranking officials in it. They’ve offered the vaccine to all.. civilian, military, and contractors, regardless of our personal health status (though my hypertension might qualify me anyway).

    I have no illusions about this being altruistic on their part: they don’t want any of us infecting the two principal high ranking government officials in the office.

    What would Bill have me do, turn down a chance at the vaccine? Not going to happen. I believe in science, and I want that vaccine. I don’t want a chance of spreading COVID-19 to my about-to-turn 78 year old mother. I’m very thankful that she’s in great shape for her age, and has all her faculties, and I’d like that situation to continue as long as possible. Bill’s going to have to get over himself or get fired, because he’s creating a Hostile Work Environment.

    I have a smidgen of sympathy for him, if he’s not been able to get the vaccine himself and wants it, but that’s all.

  74. Tisiphone*

    Making snide comments and glaring at people who are eligible ahead of him lays bare Bill’s consuming envy. He needs to act like a professional adult instead of a whiny child being made to wait his turn.

    There is no excuse for his behavior. None. Non-verbal hostility is still hostility.

  75. Hamish*

    I agree that it’s actually better to shut down all talk about eligibility rather than just weight talk. The topics are interlinked in a way that makes them really difficult to disentangle and lead to other awkward situations. I’ve had the first dose of the vaccine, and to look at me I’m a healthy man in my 30s who has put on a bit of a beer belly recently; if someone was asking me about eligibility I’d feel pressured to either say yep, I’ve been getting fat (a lie, and also not allowed) or disclose to them that actually I’m pregnant and, yes, transgender.

    Just take the conversation off the table. Please.

  76. Vaccine*

    I just asked for the day off for my vaccine without saying why I took the day off. Does your employer need to know you are vaccinated?

  77. Ted*

    “My state permits those with a BMI of >30 to get vaccines early…”

    The word “early” here bothers me (not to fault the OP, who is merely reflecting attitudes others have expressed). Obesity is a proven factor in severe or even fatal COVID symptoms, so it makes perfect sense for it to be considered in vaccine eligibility.

    The fact is that the factors determining eligibility are different in each state, and they depend largely on guesswork and public-health considerations. (Is someone aged 75 really at greater risk than someone who’s 74? Is someone who’s 65 at greater risk than someone who’s 64, or 61? No, but you have to start somewhere, and round numbers are easier to remember.)

    Luckily, this vaccine-shaming will end soon, because we’re apparently just a month or two away from making them available to all adults who are willing to get them.

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