A female bus driver who was refused a job with Translink because she was deemed 'overweight', last night vowed she will fight to overturn the decision.
Marie Parker, who has more than 20 years' experience driving buses in England, was turned down by the transport company because of her Body Mass Index — the number which uses height and weight to determine if someone is over or underweight.
Translink has said that as part of its health and safety obligations all drivers must reach an acceptable medical standard and "one of the tools" they use to assess this is a BMI ratio.
However, the Northern Ireland-born woman, whose plight first came to light on the Stephen Nolan Show last week, believes the assessment is discriminatory because it uses a person's weight to determine whether someone gets a job.
Marie said: "I am just really disgusted.
"I feel extremely let down by my own people. What kind of future have the rest of us got? I am not fat. And I would never criticise someone who I did not know.
"It's not fair. I feel very hurt. It should not matter what my weight is. It does not affect my ability to do the job. My weight and height is not a factor for my current employer.
"In fact my boss was kind of shocked when I told him Translink turned me down. He could not believe the reason they had given me.
"I love working on the buses, I love meeting the people. I think they need to get their act together. If there was another bus company I don't think they would be too bothered about a person's weight and height."
Mrs Parker, who is returning to Northern Ireland to live, applied for the job more than a month ago and received her rejection letter two weeks ago.
She said that when her husband read it out to her, she thought he was joking — she could not believe they were rejecting her because of her weight.
Mrs Parker weighs 11st 6lbs and is 4ft 11ins tall.
She said: "When I filled out the form, I did not think my height and weight would have anything to do with me not getting the job. So when my husband read it out to me I thought it was a joke.
"They actually said I did not meet their medical standards but then went on to say 'however should you wish to reduce your weight and subsequently contact us with the next six months, we will be glad to consider you.'
"When I thought about it, they actually said I had to lose weight. I am just so disgusted, I mean how would you feel if someone told you to lose weight. It was not very nice."
Translink defended its decision.
A spokesman said that as an employer it has a responsibility "to ensure that our bus drivers reach an acceptable medical standard".
"Therefore at recruitment, we ensure our all candidates are medically fit and healthy. The Body Mass Index ratio is just one of the tools we use to assess this.
"It is at the recruitment stage that we have the opportunity to reject an application if the upper BMI limit is greater than 33 based on advice from our occupational health specialists," he added.
However Mrs Parker vowed to fight to overturn the decision: "I will fight this as far as I can."