As many individuals may have heard in the news, in June of this year, the American Medical Association (“AMA”) adopted a new policy officially labeling obesity as a disease. As an employment lawyer, my mind immediately drifted to how the AMA’s new label for obesity could benefit employees who attempt to bring disability discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
Obesity as a disability under the ADA is a relatively novel concept, but it does have some history. Two years ago the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) brought a disability discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a 680 pound man, and the Louisiana District Court held that morbid obesity can constitute a disability under the ADA. With this backdrop, I was very interested to hear that a member of the EEOC Commission, Chai Feldblum recently address the AMA’s new label of obesity as a disease during an interview with Bloomberg BNA.
I, however, was slightly surprised to see that Feldblum sees the AMA’s new designation as having no real impact on employees’ ability to bring disability discrimination lawsuits based on obesity discrimination. From a legal standpoint, it makes sense. In order to bring a disability discrimination claim under the ADA, for any impairment, a plaintiff must show that he or she is substantially limited in a recognized major life activity. As such, the labels thrown around by the AMA really have no impact on what an employee must prove to bring a disability discrimination claim based on his or her obesity.
The entire text of the interview can be found here, and, while you will see that Feldblum recognizes that the AMA’s new designation “will certainly not hurt plaintiffs,” she stops short of addressing the impact that the AMA’s labeling of obesity as a disease could potentially sway public opinion regarding obesity. It seems to me that common acceptance of obesity as a disease will logically have some effect on how Courts perceive disability discrimination cases based upon a plaintiff’s obesity.
Of course, change rooted in public opinion takes time, but I tend to believe that the AMA’s new designation will mark an increase in the amount of obesity-related disability discrimination lawsuits being filed in US Courts. Only time will tell.
If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disables employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio law.
The materials available at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. It would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to disability discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.