Comments about weight and diet were harassment

In Ms K Moth v The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, a police officer whose boss advised her to “lose weight” and “stop drinking gallons of Coke” has won her claim for harassment at the tribunal.

Why were these comments unlawful?

Kerry Moth (‘M’), a detective police constable with Devon and Cornwall Police (DCP), has several chronic medical conditions, including visceral hyperalgesia, neuralgia, and fibromyalgia. She also experiences anxiety and depression. She is disabled.

In July 2018, M told her line manager, DS Marvelly (‘DSM’), that she was fed up with people assuming that her weight contributed to her condition after he said that a salad she was eating looked ‘healthy’. M explained that a side effect of the daily medication she took caused her to gain weight. DSM queried this saying that it might also help if she ‘stopped drinking gallons of Coke’ and took greater personal responsibility for having a healthier lifestyle in general.

A tribunal found that the comments amounted to harassment, were connected to M’s disability, and created an offensive environment for her. Compensation will be assessed later.

What can we learn?

  • Don’t comment on colleagues’ weight.
  • Don’t give unsolicited diet or weight loss advice to any employee, regardless of whether they are disabled.
  • Don’t comment about a person’s diet or lifestyle choices.
  • Concentrate your concerns on how your employee’s performance is failing if it is affected by their weight.