Best Lawyer Answers to: Should I get a disability discrimination lawyer? Can my boss discriminate against me because I’m fat? What should I do if I’ve been wrongly fired?
Our disability discrimination attorneys have blogged about the American Medical Association (“AMA”) adopting a new policy officially labeling obesity as a disease and the impact that may have on claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In that blog we pointed out that the Louisiana District Court held that morbid obesity can constitute a disability under the ADA. Under the ADA, employer cannot harass or discriminate against its employees based on disability, and cannot retaliate against employees that have reported or complained about discrimination against the disabled.
Our employment discrimination lawyers have also blogged about the importance of getting an attorney involved as early in the employment dispute as possible – this means calling the right attorney when any harassment or discrimination is occurring. The earlier a lawyer is involved, the better they can affect the outcome of any potential claim.
So what happens when the boss harasses an employee based on his obesity, but he does nothing for months after the comments until he is fired several months later? No claim says a Federal District Court in the Northern District of Illinois when it granted summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer after a former employee filed a lawsuit for disability discrimination and retaliation. Plaintiff, Denise Luster-Malone sued her former employer, Cook County for disability discrimination after her supervisor made “several derogatory remarks about her weight” during her employment including telling her that her “big fat ass needs to concentrate on losing weight or something to that effect.” According to the record, Luster-Malone weighed around 300 pounds during the majority of her employment.
Luster-Malone argued that these derogatory comments represented the true motivation behind her termination, not the reasons offered by her former employer, which including allegations that Luster-Malone had been an insubordinate employee and improperly claimed overtime benefits.
In granting summary judgment, the Court danced around the question of whether “obesity” is or can be a “disability” under the ADA. The Court that “obesity does not generally qualify as a disability under the ADA…” but also noted that obesity can and does affects major life activities such as walking.
As to the “big fat ass” comment, the Court seemed more concerned about the “causation” link between the comment and termination rather than the substance of the comment itself. Plainly, because the comment occurred several months prior to the termination and was not related to the company’s investigation into Luster-Malone’s allegedly false overtime claims, the Court found that the comment did not constitute disability discrimination that caused her termination. Therefore, Luster-Malone could not meet the “pretext” requirement of her claim.
A take-away of the Luster-Malone case is that even if your supervisor or fellow co-worker makes an egregious discriminatory comment against you, and thereafter, you are terminated from your employment, it will still be your burden to prove that the comment or discrimination in general was causally related to your termination. Would the outcome have changed if a lawyer helped Luster-Malone timely report and oppose the harassment? Maybe. He could have kept his job or had a stronger claim. Maybe, there would have been enough evidence to get the case to a jury – which might have given the employer a stronger reason to consider settlement. In the end, we don’t know what would have happened if he called the best employment discrimination lawyer that he could find. But, we know that it could not have gone any worse than the outcome that he got.
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 the top of this page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “how do I get a work accommodation for my disability?”, “am I disabled under the ADA?”, “what should I do if…” or “can my boss fired me for …”, 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.