Great story about “I’m not leaving ’till you give me a job”? ~ Quora post

I just came across an interesting article in Quora which I think might be nice to read for all.

(I wrote this as a comment yesterday, but many have asked me to make it an answer…so here it is.) Thank you.

Years ago, I was in charge of HR  recruitment for a national insurance company based in Chicago. I interviewed an obese 35-year old woman, Lisa M., who began by saying: “I’ll be frank. I am 374 lbs and I haven’t had a job in over two years. I  am now living in a friend’s (unfinished)  basement, sleeping on a mattress on the floor. My friend can take care of me only so long. I have applied everywhere since I lost my last job [as a claims  adminstrator], but no one will hire me because of my weight. But I have to work to live.”

I had to turn her down. Yes, Lisa had decent qualifications, had worked for her previous employer for about five years, and scored well on our tests. On the other hand, she could not  physically fit into our cubicles or chairs (even the aisles were tight), was breathless climbing stairs, and was larger than any woman I had  ever seen — or than anyone in our 2000-person office.

In those days, you could legally tell people that they wouldn’t fit into work  chairs or narrow aisles; technically, her condition made her unable to  perform in the job. Further, I had to tell her that the company could not take on liability for people in her condition (which included very  high blood pressure). She left distraught — but with dignity.

A few days later Lisa returned. She told me she would work free (no salary) to prove she could do the job. She promised that she had a weight loss commitment, and was working with a public assistance  physician on this. She begged to at least talk to the Claims Manager.

I was 28 years old, knew the rules, and said I was sorry. And I really was. On the other hand, back then you weren’t supposed to sympathize with obesity, a condition that was considered a character flaw.

Lisa returned twice more. Once, she brought a list of ideas about how to  manage the physical “fit” issues related to our workplace. Again, she begged to have the chance to work for nothing.

I was extraordinarily impressed with her persistence and grace. I also was well  aware that she was at great personal risk — including being turned out  on Chicago’s tough streets. But, I believed there was no way the Claims  Manager, a pretty strict guy 20 years my senior, would consider her for a job.

Still, I also knew we did not have enough qualified candidates for our available jobs. So, I talked to my boss — a good guy.

Soon, we set up a well-prepared meeting with the Claims Manager, and laid out the above story. After the expected resistance, he agreed to at least meet this unique woman.

Short story: the Manager was reluctantly  impressed. So, he and I worked out a hiring arrangement (knowing we would have to fight higher management) that required a special physical exam (which we paid for), and monthly blood pressure tests with the  company nurse. We also found a cheap way, through the company handyman, to combine two work cubicles into one.

Six years later, I left the company and Lisa was still there. She was a Claims Supervisor — a  well-regarded employee.  Lisa was still very heavy, but no longer 374  pounds – more like 250 or so. And, she had her own apartment and a life that made her happy.

Lisa has always been an inspiration.

D’Arcy Gue, led HR departments for over 30 years