Disability Discrimination Based on Weight: How Can an Employee Prove It

Disciminated because of Obesity

Last year, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced that obesity, which is a medical condition characterized by excess body fat which may cause adverse effects to a person’s health, is considered a disease. This declaration created an impact on the debate on whether or not employees and applicants who are overweight are protected under anti-discrimination laws, particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Prior to the announcement, obesity is only considered a disability if it is the result of an underlying health condition such as diabetes. Other than that, it was considered a lifestyle choice. But thanks to efforts of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the federal courts in expanding the legal definition of obesity, employees and applicants who have been discriminated or harassed in the workplace just because they are overweight can now establish that their condition is not because of an underlying condition. Obesity, as it is, should effectively limit a person to perform one or more major life activities such as walking, bending, standing, and the like.

That, together with the AMA’s announcement regarding obesity as a disease, made it more reasonable for aggrieved employees and applicants to file weight discrimination lawsuits against their employers. But how should one prove that he or she is discriminated against or harassed in employment just because of his or her weight? Here are some of the ways to do so:

  • The employee must prove that he or she has a disability. Like what was pointed out above, his or her obesity should limit or restrict him or her from performing one or more major life activities.
  • To make sure that the employee has the right to sue, his or her employer must be covered by the ADA, which means it employs at least 15 employees.
  • The employee must be regarded as disabled, or has had a history of obesity. Being called names related to obesity, even if the employee is not actually obese, can be grounds for a lawsuit. Also, someone who had lost weight is also covered by the laws if he or she is discriminated against because of his or her history of the disability.
  • A discrimination lawsuit can be filed against the employer if the aggrieved employee has direct evidence of such, which usually include comments about his or her weight. He or she can also do so if he or she was differently treated than his or her other non-obese co-workers under the same circumstances.
  • He or she was not given reasonable accommodations in order for him or her to perform the essential functions of his or her job. Unless the employer can show that doing so would be an undue hardship, the employee can still sue his or her employer.

The ADA is enforced by the EEOC; as such, the employee can file a charge of discrimination with the federal agency. It is usually required before one can sue. Meanwhile, if you have been subjected to weight discrimination or harassment in the workplace, you may consult with a Los Angeles discrimination attorney for you to know your rights.

to learn more about Weight Discrimination Laws, Rulings, Attorneys visit: http://www.cswd.org/docs/legalaction.html



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