Obesity is now recognized as a disability under the ADA

The EEOC (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) who enforces Title 1 of the ADA has filed a suit against Resources for Human Development because it discriminated against an obese employee when she was fired. Prior to this the EEOC only recognized obesity when there was an underlying medical cause or it was was considered morbidly obese. The EEOC now claims that “basic obesity”  sufficiently impacts a person’s life activities to qualify as a disability or perceived disability.

The woman the suit is filed on behalf of (she is now dead) was able to perform all the essential functions of her job. She was limited physically by her weight and it was for this reason she was fired. It is because of the perception that she was disabled by her disability on account of her disability that it falls under the protections of the ADA.

So is this a good thing or a bad thing?  I have my reservations. Will this mean that over 50% of Americans are now considered disabled? While discrimination against people on account of weight should be illegal (it is in Michigan), I am not sure I want it to be considered a disability.

Morbid obesity is rarely, if ever, a choice. I do think that morbid obesity should qualify as a disability under the ADA. But when a person is “pleasingly plump” and it is a lifestyle choice, I don’t think that is  disability. So where do you draw the line in the sand?

I guess the EEOC’s suit No. 2:10-cv-03322 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has drawn the line and most American’s are on the disability side of it.

4 Comments

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  1. Jennifer Bunch 17. Mar, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think obesity should be considered a disability. I disagree that it’s not a choice. Is it harder to lose weight for some than for others? Is there a genetic factor? Yes, but one does not wake up weighing 500 pounds. Nobody is pointing a gun at these people making them eat. I do think it’s wrong that many health plans don’t cover bariatric surgeriss. But obesity, drug addition, and alcoholism should not be considered disabilities. There are choices involved in each of these conditions.

  2. Susan 17. Mar, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Well there are plenty of other things that entail choice that result in disability, but no one is saying that those disabilities shouldn’t be covered. You drive while drinking and crash your car and suffer a head injury – should that be covered? You start smoking at 12 and at 35 develop lung cancer – should that be covered? You have unprotected sex and develop a sexually transmitted disease that results in hepatitis and lifelong disability – should that be covered? You dive into a pool where no diving is post and you end up paralyzed from the neck down – should that be covered?

    People make bad choices and except when it come to a few things we decide when people become disabled not to lay blame on their bad choices and just help with the consequences.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Loose Thoughts ~ Sunday at Bride of Rove - 18. Sep, 2011

    [...] $50 a month, $600 a year for your health care plan. Chicago should prepare to get sued because the ADA has recognized obesity as a disability in at least one case and given the percentage of Americans this could apply to, what Chicago is doing could be called [...]

  2. Quora - 05. Jan, 2012

    Can someone in the United States be fired for being too obese to perform their job?…

    This is a complex question. Obesity is now recognized as a disability covered under the ADA (http://disabilitysavvy.com/2011/01/12/obesity-is-now-recognized-as-a-disability-under-the-ada/), so employers are required to make reasonable accomodations so …

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