Recently, the EEOC sued a Texas company, alleging that the company
engaged in disability discrimination, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act,
when it fired a 680-pound worker because he was morbidly obese.
Is morbid obesity considered an ADA
As discussed here on the blog last week, a physical or mental impairment
that substantially limits one or more major life activities is considered an
actual disability. The term "substantially limits" is now construed
broadly in favor of expansive coverage. Additionally, whether an impairment
substantially limits a major life activity is determined without regard to the
ameliorative effects of mitigating measures (like medications or treatment).
Does that mean that a 680-pound man disabled? Let's check
the facts. In its complaint, a copy of which you can find here, the
EEOC alleges that the worker's morbid obesity interferes with his ability to
walk, stand, kneel, stoop, lift and breathe. Those sound to me like major life
activities and I can imagine how being that overweight could interfere
with one or more of them. To the extent that the employee can accomplish these
major life activities with the use of pills, crutches, or other assistive
measures, it doesn't matter. So, yes, there is a strong argument that a
morbidly obese employee has a disability.
There is another way that a morbidly-obese employee could
be considered disabled under the ADA, and that is if the
company regards the employee as disabled. (In its complaint, the EEOC also
claimed that the company also regarded the employee as disabled). Even if
the employee does not have a physical or mental impairment that
substantially limits one or more major life activities is considered an actual
disability, that employee is disabled under the ADA -- because that's how company
considers the employee.
So how does a disabled employee prevail under
There are a few ways, two of which are as follows:
Although the EEOC contends that the employer violated the
ADA, right now, that's all it is: a contention. We will see how this case
Don't miss tomorrow's edition of The Employer
I'm coming back at you tomorrow with an analysis of
"King-Size Homer," an episode from Season 7 of The Simpsons, in
which Homer comes
up with a scheme to gain enough weight (mostly by eating his daughter's
Play-Doh) to be classified as disabled. Play D'oh!
Is Homer entitled to coverage, and did Mr. Burns and the
Springfield Nuclear Power Plant violate the ADA?
This article was originally published on Eric B. Meyer's blog, The Employer
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