Obesity is not considered a disability in the workplace. A disability is a condition which prevents one from performing all usual physical or mental functions. This usually means a permanent state, but in some cases, it can include temporary states as well. However, Federal courts have held that obesity alone is not a disability protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Therefore, an employer may discriminate against a job applicant or an employee on the basis of their weight.
How Are Obese People Being Discriminated in the Workplace?
The prevalence of obesity has risen dramatically in the
United States and studies show that obese individuals may have additional hurdles to overcome in the workplace. Employers may be biased in hiring heavier applicants due to fears of higher insurance costs, long-term health needs and possible disability payments. As of yet, obese workers do not have any special federal employment protections.
Possible Recourse for Obese Applicants or Employees
Some obese workers have filed lawsuits claiming discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (”
ADA“). Others have sought protection claiming their obesity is related to a physiological disorder. There are some federal and state protections when a person is “morbidly obese,” even if it is self-induced. Finally, some states and cities have added “weight” into anti-discrimination ordinances to protect obese people from discrimination in the workplace. Examples include Michigan, Washington, D.C., and the cities of Santa Cruz and
San Francisco, California.
What Should I do if I Suspect That I Have Been Discriminated Against Because of My Weight?
If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your weight, it may be best to seek the services of an discrimination lawyers. An experienced attorney can advise you any applicable options available to you in your state, and whether to pursue a case of employment discrimination, an
ADA violation or wrongful termination based on weight. Your attorney may find that you should file a charge of discrimination with the state law enforcement agency within a certain time period or file a claim with the EEOC.