A Soweto woman has been left traumatized after petroleum giant BP Southern Africa where she worked allegedly got her fired for being too fat and probably unable to do her job because of her weight.
The woman Phumzile Mndebele of Meadolands, was a staff of BP company where she refuels air crafts of all sizes.
The 35-year-old mother of two is actually overweight, but this did not stand as an obstacle to executing her duties to the company.
In an interview with Sunday World, Phumzile Mndebele told the story of her life and how she got fired for being too fat, revealing that the company also exposed her medical files to a disciplinary hearing panel without her consent following an inquiry into her capacity to do her job on December 14 last year.
The outcome of the inquiry found her incapable of performing her duties as a flight fueling operator at O.R Tambo International Airport, due to her excess weight.
“I started to work for BP in January 2012. I was told to go to an occupational therapist in Benoni towards the end of 2012. I was never informed why I must go see an OT. When I got there I asked the doctor what I was there for and he told me that my company asked him to evaluate me and see if I can work there,” said Mndebele.
After the doctor’s evaluation, the multinational company told her to hire a dietitian and a personal trainer to help her lose weight which she did but had to pay for their services from her own pocket.
“I was forced to pay for the services of these people from my own pocket because I wanted to keep my job. I still see a personal trainer from Virgin Active Maponya Mall. We do all types of exercises just to help me lose weight.
“When they dismissed me they never considered any reports from my dietitian and personal trainer about my progress. I shed some weight since I started these programmes. I lost about 5kg and I now weigh 140kg. All this just to accept discrimination against my body,” said Mndebele.
Her dietitian, Dr Dodo Motsatsi, confirmed that Mndebele was his patient but did not give details of her medicals for professional reasons.
Also, Rhulani Shirinda, who is Mndebele’s personal trainer, said: “I can confirm that she is currently my client and I have been training with her for almost six months now. We do various activities to help her reach her goals.”
Phumzile Mndebele said her weight was not seen as an issue during her job interview and she was never informed about any company policies regarding weight.
“When I asked them why they hired me if they had a problem with my weight, they told me that my medicals were supposed to arrive in December 2011 but arrived in 2012. What angers me is the fact that they said nothing concerning my weight until 2014,” she said.
Mndebele is presently facing the consequences of being without a job as she stays in a one-room backyard shack in Meadowlands with her husband and two kids.
“I wish I can sue BP for putting me through all this. But I don’t have the money to do so. My husband earns R3500 per month.
“I am not coping at all and feel very dirty. I was reporting to work and being told not to touch any work for the whole of last year. Some managers were no longer greeting me.”
Meanwhile, no comment came from the company as BP spokeswoman Karen Byamugisha said the company does not comment on employment matters publicly.
“Particularly as this has now been referred to the National Bargaining Council for the Chemical Industry,” said Byamugisha.
The idea of getting fired for being too fat may seem hilarious, but if this is going to be the new trend, then we need to hit the gym to avoid getting a sack letter from the boss.