Labor Practices

Obesity Discrimination

What is Morbid Obesity?

Morbid Obesity is viewed as a serious public health problem. Causes of morbid obesity include overeating, genetic predisposition, lack of exercise, underlying illness, binge eating disorder, stress, and insufficient sleep. Excessive body weight predisposes individuals to various health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, neuropathy, and sleep apnea. A body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, or twice one's normal body weight, is considered morbidly obese. If you are morbidly obese due to physiological reasons, you may be protected by law from being discriminated against.

Ways in which you might be discriminated against because of obesity:

• Your employer does not allow you to miss work for medical appointments;
• Your employer does not accommodate the need to seek exercise or nutritional therapy;
• Not granting FMLA leave for your disability;
• Having to purchase an additional airline ticket.

Employment and Weight Discrimination

Weight discrimination is rampant. It affects all aspects of employment. Opinions about obesity have a negative impact on both job offers and job placement. Once employed, over-sized individuals are less likely to receive promotions and more likely to be harassed, disciplined or demoted. The wages paid to morbidly obese employees are generally 25% lower than wages paid to other employees.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

In 2008, amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) clarified who is covered by the law. It changed the definition of a "disability" to more broadly encompass impairments that substantially limit a major life activity such as walking, working or talking. Being morbidly obese may be a protected disability, but medical evidence must show that the excessive weight was result of a physical condition.

You can qualify as having a disability by having one of the following:

• You have a mental or physical condition that prevents you from participating in a major life activity (e.g. breathing, caring for oneself, learning, talking, hearing, walking, seeing, etc).
• You have a history of a disability (e.g. a disease that is in remission such as cancer)
• You are regarded as a person with a substantially limiting disability.

Determinations on whether or not a person suffers from a disability covered by the ADA are made on a case by case basis. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who are disabled.

How the law protects you if you are morbidly obese:

Employers must provide a 'reasonable accommodation' for employees who qualify under the ADA. Reasonable accommodation includes any changes to the workplace or a job that allow an employee or qualified applicant to do their job, or engage in the application process so as to make sure that qualified disabled workers have the same chances and opportunities that any non-disabled worker has.

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