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Obesity and the Americans with Disabilities Act: counselor fired

For 65-year-old Peggy, life has always been a little different than her peers and her co-workers. There isn't a day she can remember that she was not overweight. No matter what she did, no matter how much went into weight-loss efforts, she had always been one of the 37.5 percent of United States adults that are classified as obese.

"I've been a fat person all my life," she told media sources. It has simply been something that she lived with and not something that she considered a disability when it comes to work. However, that all changed when she was fired from her job for failing to lose enough weight despite working away over 100 pounds in six months.

Before the Americans with Disabilities Act was amended in 2011 to include protections for those who are considered morbidly obese, the woman was asked by her employer to lose weight. Not only was she asked to lose weight, but the request was coupled with an attack on her character.

Her boss claimed that her weight was an "indication that [her] life was out of control." Next came a threat that if she couldn't lose a serious amount of weight, she would be fired. Why? He claimed that someone who couldn't control their weight "had no business counseling other people." Even though she successfully dropped the 100 pounds, he still terminated her employment.

Now, the woman campaigns for those who have suffered adverse employment actions because of their weight. While she is on the frontlines for the fight to gain more protections, opinions differ on whether to consider obesity as a disability or a physical trait akin to gender discrimination.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Obesity Discrimination On The Job Provokes Dispute Over Best Remedy," Christina Wilkie, Oct. 4, 2012

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