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.


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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.

  3. J.C.K. 25. May, 2013 at 4:08 am #

    I think that under some circumstances, it should be recognized, but under others, it should not.

    For example, if considering it a disability results in actions that could potentially make it worse, then it should not be. If, however, an obese individual is being discriminated against, then it should.

    I am currently in the process of losing the last 30 pounds to get to my goal weight. I know it’s hard, but it’s possible to lose weight and obesity can be reversed. For that reason, I don’t think there should be special considerations for people who are overweight.

  4. Sarah 24. Jun, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    Okay, if obesity is a chronic disease and a disability, then why don’t our insurance companies pay for us obese people to go to the gym’s or to weight watchers etc… ? If we get prescriptions to get meds, and have to go through all these test as preventatives. They keep shoving it down our throats but, the big insurance companies won’t pay for anything like that. Instead they only want to pay for pills, and medications and surgeries and pay the big Pharmaceutical companies. It’s all a crock. If employers are required to make reasonalbe accomadations for them then, so should the insurance companies.

  5. tess 02. Aug, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    This for those of you who have never suffered overweight It is NOT a choice do you really think we would make that one? You must be kidding me. I fought it all my life, after 18 and started kids . I was very active, ate all the wrong things but it took yrs to finally catch up. Sure a few here and there but who pays that much att when busy w life? Until you have walked in my shoes don’t judge them. I had surgery 6 yrs ago, lost almost 100 lbs in 2 yrs, but then I gained 10. Dr wouldn’t help me as he though I was where I should be, leveled out. I walked out, I knew something was wrong, only eating 6 oz of bean soup a day and a 1/2 cup or mashed spuds, or a couple chips. Another took xrays and sure nuf stomach had stretched. So I am now depressed as half the town knew me skinny and other half chubby. I am miserable all round. Have a nice eve


  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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