Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 12101-12213, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-325, 122 Stat. 3553, does not define physical impairment, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, exercising its statutory authority to issue regulations implementing the ADA under 42 U.S.C.S. § 12205a, has defined the term to mean any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems. Examples of affected body systems can include: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, including speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine. 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(h)(1). Under the plain language of that definition, obesity is not a physical impairment unless it is a physiological disorder or condition and it affects a major body system.
Melvin Morriss appealed from the district court's order granting BNSF Railway Company's (BNSF) motion for summary judgment and denying his motion for partial summary judgment on his claims that BNSF refused to hire him on account of his obesity and thereby discriminated against him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), Pub. L. No. 110-325, 122 Stat. 3553, and the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFEPA), Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 48-1101 to - 1126.
Does obesity qualify as a disability under the ADA?
The court rejected Morriss’ interpretation of 29 C.F.R. pt. 1630, app. § 1630.2(h). Morriss unsuccessfully argued that the Watkins Motor Lines decision and the Francis decision were inapposite because those cases were decided prior to the enactment of the ADAAA. The ADAAA did not alter the definition of physical impairment. Morriss’ contention garnered no support for the EEOC regulations that his obesity, in and of itself, was a physical impairment because it had been labeled severe, morbid, or Class III obesity. The employer did not discriminate against Morriss because it perceived him as having a physical impairment.