EU Court: Obesity Can Be A Disability

Obesity could be a disability, a European Court of Justice has ruled, reports BBC Health News. The court had taken the case of a male childminder from Denmark who had been fired for due to his obesity. If obesity hindered “full and effective participation” in employment, the court found, then obesity could be classified as a disability. The ruling applies in all member nations of the European Union.

“Judges said that obesity in itself was not a disability – but if a person had a long-term impairment because of their obesity, then they would be protected by disability legislation,” BBC Health News reported.

The Danish court, where the obesity disability case was filed, asked the EU Court to decided whether obesity is a basis on which workers could claim disability. The court in Denmark will be tasked to determine if the instance of the fired childminder is one in which his obesity can be classified as a disability.

While the ruling does declare that some cases of obesity can be considered disability, the Guardian reports that it “stops short, however of declaring obesity to be a protected characteristic again which all discrimination is prohibited.” In doing so, the court did not classify all instances of obesity as a disability. Karsten Kaltoff, the fired childminder, claims his obesity is not a disability, and claims he can perform the duties of the job from which he was fired. He doesn’t see himself as disabled, and doesn’t believe he should have been fired due to his obesity.

Kaltoff filed the case on the basis of discrimination, and the employer claims his obesity prevents him from effectively doing the job, which raised the issue of his obesity possibly being a disability.

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In some instances, where obesity leads to discrimination in employment, it may lead to more applications for disability due to obesity. A hospital in Texas, as reported by the Inquisitr, refuses to hire prospective employees with obesity. Citizens Medical Center has a policy of not hiring employees whose level of obesity puts them about a body-mass index of 35. For example, a person of 5’5″ height and weighing more than 210 is considered in a state obesity and is not hired.

As more employers discriminate for employment on the basis of obesity, it might lead to more applications for disability on the basis of obesity. This could lead to future court rulings, allowing more instances of obesity to be considered a disability in employment situations.

[Image via The Guardian]