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.