Stronger anti-discrimination laws needed

‘Overweight’ supervisor case

KUCHING: The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) is disappointed that a Malaysia Airlines flight supervisor failed to get justice at the Industrial Court after she was terminated for being “overweight”.

“This is a case of discrimination – more specifically, weight discrimination. And we are appalled by the way Malaysia Airlines shames and discriminates flight attendants that it arbitrarily deems to be ‘overweight’,” WAO said yesterday.

It said the onus was on Malaysia Airlines to prove that its weight criteria for flight attendants were indeed a bona fide or indispensable requirement of the job.

“Merely asserting notions of ‘image’ and ‘safety’ is not enough. After all, how does weighing an additional 0.7kg affect one’s job performance? The ability of flight attendants to provide excellent customer service ultimately lies in their interpersonal skills rather than their body weight,” it added.

WAO said behind all the talk about “maintaining its image as a premium airline” lay the degrading and dehumanising idea that flight attendants were mere eye candy, an idea bolstered by sexist and unrealistic beauty standards.

If Malaysia Airlines wanted to be a respected airline, it was time it treated its flight attendants and all other staff with the respect that they deserve, WAO said.

WAO said this case also showed that the country needed stronger anti-discrimination laws.

It suggested that the Ministry of Human Resources table the proposed anti-discrimination provision in the Employment Act as soon as possible.

This would help hold irresponsible employers accountable and provide more avenues of redress for employees who face discrimination, it said.

WAO said it was also disappointed that the Industrial Court failed to challenge the rationale behind Malaysia Airlines’s weight management policy.

“Judges needed to be trained on gender discrimination so that they are equipped to utilise provisions in the law to address such cases of discrimination.

“Tackling discrimination would ultimately help us create workplaces that are more inclusive and diverse,” said the statement.