Europe Court: Obesity Can Be a Disability

350-pound man sued after getting fired
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2014 6:56 PM CST
Europe Court: Obesity Can Be a Disability
Stock image.   (Shutterstock)

Obese people who feel discriminated against in the workplace scored a potentially big legal victory in Europe today. The European Court of Justice ruled that obesity can be a disability that requires special protections, reports the BBC. The ruling is "nuanced," however, observes Al Jazeera America. The court didn't say outright that obesity is a disability, only that it can be under certain circumstances—specifically if the obesity hinders "full and effective participation" at work. The case in question involves a 350-pound man in Denmark who says he got fired from his job as a child caregiver because of his weight. His case now goes back to a lower court that will determine whether he qualifies as disabled under the new guidelines.

Courts in the US in recent years have generally begun protecting obese workers, writes Helen Leahey in the Washington Post. But Leahey, who describes herself as morbidly obese, says more needs to be done. "By failing to recognize morbid obesity as a disability, society is alienating a growing number of people from working life," she writes. "We don't debate whether a person who breaks his back due to reckless behavior should be granted disabled status." The second half of the equation is more aggressive regulation of the food industry and better nutrition education in school, she adds. (Obesity might shave eight years off a person's life.)

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