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Obesity and the Americans with Disabilities Act: opinions differ

In our prior post, we shared the story of a young woman who lost her job because her employer considered her to be too overweight. This sadly isn't an isolated incident. Over 35.7 percent of American adults are considered to be obese, and many of them suffer false assumptions based on their looks. In fact, the woman in our prior post was told that her weight was an indication that she couldn't "control her own life" despite losing over 100 pounds after a lifetime of being overweight.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was amended to include morbid obesity after her termination from her counseling job, but she now acts as an advocate for even more protections. It isn't under the title of disability that she is advocating, and she has both support and opposition for her fight.

"There's a big change going on right now," said the director of legal initiatives at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. She was talking about obesity discrimination and the fact that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and courts across the country seem to agree on the subject.

Not everyone has the same opinion. There is a wide controversy over whether obesity should be considered a disability or not, and supporters on each side might surprise you. The woman from the previous case said that she doesn't consider her weight a disability but more of a characteristic like being born male or female, like the color of your skin.

Others say that morbid obesity is in fact a disability in the workplace. They say that it is an "impairment that substantially limit a major life activity" as defined by law. But even at this point, there is clarification that is necessary. Some supporters of morbid obesity falling under the definition of a disability even say that being overweight or even slightly obese is not something that affects the ability to work at all.

The major fear amongst most, however, is that those who are overweight or slightly obese would fall into a grey area of no protection at all.

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

If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, our Kansas discrimination firm helps individuals seek the relief that they need.

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