• Is Obesity Covered by the ADA?
  • October 18, 2010 | Author: Steven M. Gutierrez
  • Law Firm: Holland & Hart LLP - Denver Office
  • Is obesity considered a disability?  The EEOC says yes.

    According to the CDC, twenty-six percent of Americans are considered obese.  Yet the courts have long held that that the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) does not provide protection for simple obesity.  The ADA only protects employees who are morbidly obese, where the obesity is the result of a physiological condition or disorder, and the obesity substantially limits one or more major life activity.

    But the 2008 ADA Amendments Act broadened the definition of “disability.” Now the EEOC is arguing the broadened definition includes obesity, not just morbid obesity.  Just last month, the EEOC sued Human Development Inc. claiming it terminated a severely obese employee because it regarded her as being disabled and substantially limited in a number of major life activities.

    The EEOC’s clear position is that obesity is a covered disability and this suit is likely just the beginning of obesity discrimination litigation. For now, before employers take an adverse employment action against an obese employee, they should consider whether the employee can perform the essential functions of the job and whether a reasonable accommodation could be made.