Is Obesity Really a Disability?

Maybe because I've never been obese (overweight, yes, obese, no), but I disagree with the court that found that obesity is a disability.

I admit I'm one of those biased people who feels that weight is something you can -- should be able to -- control.  I, of course, know how hard it is.  I've been on a diet (and fought anorexia) most of my life. 

But, according to The Wall Street Journal, "A federal district court ruled last week that obesity itself may be a disability, independent of an underlying physiological condition, confirming the rising risk of lawsuits on grounds of obesity discrimination."

The man who won sued because his company had “terminated his employment because of his disability and, in retaliation for the charge of discrimination, threatened to terminate business with other entities if those entities employ plaintiff."

”Attorneys for the company had moved to dismiss the case, arguing that obesity was not a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and citing language from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that 'except in rare circumstances, obesity is not considered a disabling impairment,'" Gregory J. Millman writes.

"The judge flatly rejected that argument, noting that it rested on case law applied before Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, which 'rejected the unduly restrictive approach' to determining whether a plaintiff suffered from a disability," he adds.  The judge refused to dismiss the case.

So, what are to make of this?  Just because you're obese, does that mean you should get a handicapped parking sticker (though, to judge from the proliferation of them out there, just about any kind of illness or weakness applies)?  Should you be able to make a company ineligible to fire you, regardless of adequate work record?

I'm stumped on this.  I do know that people are fired for lots of reasons, many of them trumped-up (I was fired back in my 20s because a vice president took a liking to me that I didn't reciprocate back).  But is this really the way we want to run the country?

I don't know the specifics of this man's case. Perhaps he was an exemplary worker and the company just didn't want to deal with his health issues.  Maybe -- and this would be pretty crappy on the company's part -- he was in a position that dealt with the public and the company wanted a slimmer image.  Or maybe his job was purely physical and he couldn't lift or stack or transport product as required.  It could be any of these.

But if we qualify obesity as a disability, what's next?  Inability to grow attractive fingernails?


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