Obesity

WHAT IS OBESITY/ MORBID OBESITY?

Obesity is a condition in which the reserve of natural energy in the body's fatty tissue is increased to a point where it is associated with certain health conditions or increased mortality. Obesity is both an individual condition and is increasingly viewed as a serious public problem. Excessive body weight predisposes individuals to various diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases. There is no scientific agreement about measurement techniques seeking to establish a maximum healthy weight, but a body mass index of 40.0 or higher is considered severely or morbidly obese.  If you are morbidly obese due to physiological reasons, you may be protected by law from being discriminated against.  Call us now at 1-888-204-1014 to find out if you have a cause for action against your employer or prospective employer.

Causes of obesity include overeating, genetic predisposition, lack of exercise, underlying illness, binge eating disorder, stress, and insufficient sleep. The best treatment for obesity is diet and an increase in exercise. Some cutting edge medication might lead to weight loss, but thus far, such medication is unproven to lead to actual weight loss.

WAYS IN WHICH YOU MIGHT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF OBESITY:

If you are morbidly obese due to physiological reasons and:

  • Your employer does not allow you to miss work for medical appointments
  • Your employer does not accommodate your need to take a reasonable amount of time off of work
  • Your employer will not provide reasonable on-site accommodations for your disability
  • Your employer will not accommodate your need to seek exercise therapy

HOW THE LAW PROTECTS YOU IF YOU ARE MORBIDLY OBESE

To state a cause of action for disability discrimination, an employee must be disabled, regarded as disabled, or have a record of being disabled.  The employee must then show that:

  • his or her disability results in physical limitations
  • that he or she can still perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodations)
  • and that the employer took some adverse action (such as not hiring, firing, or demoting the employee) on the basis of that disability

Both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provide protection against disability discrimination. Weight might be a protected disability within meaning of FEHA and the ADA, but medical evidence must show that the excessive weight was result of physiological condition. For example, if the employee's weight problem was due to a glandular or thyroid problem, then the weight gain would be the result of a physiological condition, deserving of protection under both FEHA and the ADA.

Thus, an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of obesity if the employee's weight gain is the result of a physiological disability. If an employee is discriminated against because of his or her weight which is the result of a physiological disability, then that employee has legal recourse against his or her employer. For example, if an employee is unable to perform strenuous manual labor because of his or her obesity, an employer has an obligation to accommodate the employee accordingly, unless doing so would unduly burden the employer.

Further Information