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April 28, 2011

Obesity a Disability?

Filed under: ADA & Disability,General HR Buzz — Joyce Marsh, HR Consultant, SPHR @ 9:38 pm

Last fall, the EEOC filed suit against Resources for Human Development, Inc. under Title I of the ADA, alleging the company engaged in unlawful discrimination by terminating an employee because the employee was obese.
Up to this point, courts have ruled that obesity does not fall into the category of a disability under the ADA. However, with the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, the definition of what constitutes a disability has changed dramatically. It has become much easier for employees to prove that they meet the expanded definition of “disability”.
Employers are wise to take care when making employment decisions based solely on obesity until this suit is resolved. Employers should review job descriptions to ensure they detail the essential functions of the position. Job descriptions will be vital to an employer’s case to prove that an employee cannot perform the essential functions of the position, with or without accommodations.

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