Poll: Should His Employer Have To Pay?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
An Indiana appeals court upheld a ruling that a pizza restaurant should pay for their employee's weight loss surgery. The court ruled that it falls under the worker's compensation policy.

In 2007, 25-year old Adam Childers (who was a cook at the restaurant) was injured when a freezer door hit him in the back. At the time Childers weighed 340 pounds. In the months that followed, it was determined that he needed spinal fusion surgery to repair the damage done to his back. By this time his weight had increased to 380 pounds due to inactivity from his back pain.

Childers' doctors determined that the surgery had a high risk of failure because of his weight. They recommended he get lap-band surgery first, which could possibly help him avoid back surgery altogether if he lost enough weight and his pain subsided.

The workers compensation board found that Childers was entitled to the surgery (as well as disability payments while he wasn't working), while the restaurant argued that his weight was a pre-existing condition that should not be covered. The Indiana appeals court ruled that Childers was unable to exercise due to the injury, he did not have any issues before the accident, and that he was unsuccessful at losing weight by other methods. (Hmm...I wonder if anyone referred him to SparkPeople.)

Although it's illegal to discriminate against someone based on size, this ruling could make employers rethink hiring overweight employees- especially if the job carries a risk of injury.

What do you think? Should his employer have to cover the cost of his lap-band surgery?

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Nope - he was 340 before. There is no guarantee lap band will succeed. It depends on the will of the person receiving it. You cannot make someone lose weight. Perhaps they could pay for the lap band now - in lieu of the back surgery. No having to have the surgery or paying for it himself if he does could perhaps be a motivator. Report
No..he was 340 before..they should pay for his back surgery maybe.. but not his weight loss surgery Report
No. I have seen people lose weight without any exercise at all...through portion control. If he wants to lose weight he can, and it should not be up to his employer to pay for it. Report
No way Report
No Way. Report
Of course not... people will think of any reason to sue someone or to get something for free. What ever happened to taken responsibility for their own actions?!?! If you know you won't be able to work or workout or be active, maybe you should consider eating healthier and less. Report
surely eating less would work just as well?
and cheaper, and less risk.
the accident may have made it harder to exercise, but wont have done anything to make him eat more pies.
his employer should advise him to eat less.
job done.
He had the weight before he hurt his back...preexisting. I think he should be responsible for correcting that....THEN if he had any back issues, the employer should be responsible for correcting that. Or, there should be a financial settlement for the cost of the back issue and if he lost the weight or not, the option would be his to take it from there. Report
No but with healthcare reform - welcome to "no pre existing conditions" this is going to happen again and again. Report
I absoluted DO think that the employer should pay for all the surgery / and or lap band procedure! It happened to be an accident on the job. I don't understand why so many do not support this person. Report
From the company's point of view it might just be cheaper to pay for the lapband surgery than the back surgery. It'd be in their interests to pay for it instead.
absolutely not......no one shoved the food down his throat........this mentality that someone else is always responsible, rather than taking your own culpability in mind is what is ruining the spirit of America these days Report
We don't know if his weight gain was all due to putting"cream puffs" in his mouth. He could be on medicine that is causing some of the problems. Plus if he can't exercise at all due to the injury his work should pay for the lap band surgery. His back was hurt at work and to fix it they need to have him lose weight. Therefore it should be covered. Now if he hadn't been hurt and just came to his employer and said my working here is what made me fat then no his employer should not pay. Report
The patient should fully research lap band surgery. People do not realize the side effects of Lap Band Surgery such as malabsorption, electrolyte imbalance, increased risk of osteo porosis and the list goes on. Maybe someone will recommend Spark People to him and he can successfully decrease his weight while at the same time increase his strength and energy (even with an existing back disability).

Maybe the Pizza place could pay for him to have a trainer to help him lose weight. I guess the real question is: Is Mr. Patient ready to lose and motivated to lose? If so, Spark People would definitely be the best answer. Report
Absolutely not. While the accident was in no way his fault, to pay for a weight loss surgery is just ridiculous. Maybe instead of looking for fast fixes, this nation needs to take a good long look at itself in the mirror and remember what it was like to work for something. I understand that he can't go jogging or hit the gym for hours. But what about chair exercises? What about physical therapy? what about exercising in a pool? The accident didn't make him obese. He did that all on his own. Worker's comp is in place to make a person like they were before the accident. Meaning that yes his back should be fixed. But he was obese before and unless he himself is willing to do something about it, he can stay obese after as far as I am concerned. His company shouldn't be forced to pay for something that he wasn't working on fixing before the accident. Report
I think they should pay to make him better, and let's face it -- losing weight and being healthier will make him a better employee and less risk for the company! Report
A freezer door hit him at work causing an injury. Preparation for the operation needed to repair damage caused by this accident was required (lap band to decrease weight). These don't occur as separate issues for me - the WL and the back surgery - just clear thinking on the part of the dr that was going to do the back surgery. The fact that the back surgery might possibly be avoided if therapeutic WL and rehab are followed is an added bonus. However, he might still need the surgery - backs are tricky.

I think too many people are jumping on the "oh he's so fat, he should be blamed for everything that happens to him whether or not it's his fault" bandwagon.

What if the freezer door hit a normal weight person with osteoporosis and additional bone building through diet and exercise was needed before the back operation?

This is a WL site - I'm actually really disappointed in people's attitudes towards someone who is gainfully employed (i.e. a working, tax paying member of society) and through no fault of his own had an accident at work. We all know losing weight is a complicated issue. We are expecting this young man to be "perfect" when I daresay none of "us" are perfect. Put yourself in someone else's shoes people. One day something similar may come to pass in your own life - then how quick will you be to judge? Report
no way Report
Absolutely NOT!! Report
I say if the lap band can help them avoid paying way more on back surgery then I say why not pay for it...the doctor told him if he lost weight he could avoid it...it will cost the company more to have him go through the surgery, the recovery time and therapy than it would to pay for the lap band and then have him lose the weight.... Report
I think he should pay for the lap band procedure because the weight was pre-existing, it was his choice to gain that extra 40 pounds. Definitely, the the pizza co. should pay for the spinal surgery. Of course, if you think about it, paying for lap band surgery is cheaper than back surgery, and with the one he may not need the other. Report
Lap Band is safer than the Bipass Surgery. His weight wasnt that high and he couldn't lose weight because of the injury. YES the employer should pay for the surgery and even compensate him further. A freezer fell on him! How did that happen? People should not be discriminated against because of size. That truly is WRONG no matter if it's a law or not. I pray He gets better and that the weight will come off! Report
In my opinion, no. Report
This is so interesting, both the story and the varying points of view. One more angle to consider: if the injured worker were elderly, or say diabetic, or had fibromyalgia, would we be having this discussion? Would we be saying the person was more easily injured because of existing conditions, and shouldn't receive treatment for conditions not directly related to the actual injury? Report
I would say the critical point in the argument is that with a lap band, he might not need back surgery. They are trying to fix his back, not necessarily his weight. His back was injured and a doctor said the lap band could fix the issue. Yes, the restaurant should pay if that is the alternative the doctors have given in order to fix his back. Report
I think this is a technical legal question that depends on the Workers Compensation Law in Indiana.

And speaking of legal questions, I'm an employment lawyer and I've never heard of it being illegal to discriminate against an employee because of their size, unless their size is a result of a disability (like a thyroid problem, etc). For better or worse, neither federal law, nor NY law (where I practice) prohibits discrimination based on size alone. It kind of worries me that SP would call something "illegal" if they don't know it's true, and that it would cause people to believe that they have legal rights that they don't actually have. Unless maybe it's the law in Indiana (where this case was venued)? Report
Wait a minute - I thought it was too dangerous for seriously overweight people to have the lap-band surgery and often they have to lose weight BEFORE the surgery is attempted. If he cannot have back surgery because of his weight, what makes lap-band surgery less risky? Report
This one hits close to home. I was injured 12/1/09 at work (fell down 2 steps) - fractured my ankle in 3 places and dislocated it. I was unable to work for 3 months and obviously couldn't exercise (I did crunches once in a while but have you ever tried to elevate a 5 lb cast while crunching?!). Lucky for me, I'd been working SP for a while and was able to really focus on portion control and making good food choices. It probably helped that I couldn't drive myself thru anywhere. I managed to lose 5 lbs while laid up (maybe a little fat but I think most of it was the disappearance of all muscle tone in my calf & thigh), but can definitley understand gaining a large amount.

The visual that convinces me: If I were 360 lbs instead of 160 when I was injured, would my shin still be sticking out the side of my leg because they wouldn't pay for the lap band surgery before the one to screw my bones back together? yikes.

Here's the thing. WC gets you back to normal. If you weren't normal to begin with, you end up normal after. This guy was obese, now he might end up "normal". I was a runner and triathlete, now I can't even run 30-second intervals. But guess what, that's "normal" so WC isn't paying for more physical therapy or personal training to get me back to training condition. I can walk again, so I'm normal. This guy got the long end of the stick (sort of), I got the short end. But guess what- we're both able to work, contribute to society, and continue to pay into insurance. So even though it might be unfair to individuals, they're trying to be fair overall. I think. Report
If the injury sustained at work was due to the employees weight and would not have happened had he been of a normal weight, then yes, W/C should cover the lap-band surgery. Nothing in the article states, or even indicates that, so I can only guess that the injury was simply a fluke accident and could have happened to anyone, no matter their weight. If that is the case, then this is not a W/C claim, it would be a claim through a health insuror. Report
Wow, this is a tricky one. I agree with some of the others, if the doctor has said that he needed to lose weight for his health and recommended the lap band surgery that would clearly be solely his responsibility. But he was injured on the job and required surgery but would need the lap band surgery first to facilitate that. THAT'S a different story. He was able to work just fine (despite being overweight), UNTIL he got hurt on the job. So the employer should pay. Just my opinion. Report
What ever happened to personal responsibility. It is the employee's responsibility to lose the weight not the employer's. The employer didn't force him to make unhealthy choices. The employee made those choices that had him weighing 340 lbs before the accident. The employer should not have to pay for anything related to the employee's weight. Report
If the doctor said "hey, you'd be much healthier if you weighed less - how about a lap band?" then obviously it shouldn't be covered. But since it seems to have been something more like "Since your back was INJURED AT WORK and you need back surgery, you need to have a lap-band first to loose weight before we risk putting you through back surgery" it makes since for them to cover it. He could still be working and pain free (for now) if it weren't for the injury. He needs the lap-band to have surgery related to the injury. It really does follow.
It really does HIGHLY increase his risk of DYING to go into back surgery that overweight. If he needs the back surgery, they should pay to get him the lap-band first. It's like paying for pre-surgical antibiotics - a needed prophylactic.

Exactly! I'm all for people taking personal responsibility but in this case the lap band operation is a part of the back surgery in my opinion. He needs both surgeries in order to get back to work, so the company should pay for it because he can't work now, not because of his weight but because of the injury he got at work. If he had not gotten hurt at work then niether surgery would be necessary, they would be optional. He was working fine, weight and all, before the injury so once he got hurt on the job, the job should pay for everything necesary to get him back on his feet. Period. Report
I think the employer should pay for the original injury of his back, and whatever operations are necessary to fix his back should be paid by the employer. The lap band operation is part of what needs to be done to fix his back so that's what they need to pay for. If his back had not gotten hurt at work, he would not need the surgery so whatever his weight is, he's in that situation because of getting hurt on the job. Period. So that's what the employer should pay for. They said that the lap band may make the other surgery unnecessary if the pain stops so the employers should pay for the lap band and they may not even have to pay for the other surgery. I don't think distinctions should be made in a case like this by trying to say it's his weight that makes the lap band surgery necessary. It is not his weight that makes the lap band surgery necessary, it's his injured back that he got on the job that makes the lap band surgery necessary so that he can then get the other surgery. If he had not been hurt on the job then none of those surgeries would be necessary so they should pay. If the person is hurt on the job then the job should pay regardless of what different treatments are needed to reach that goal. Report
How about the employer pays to begin the process. If the lap band results in no further surgery being needed, the employee pays it back. If spinal work is still needed, employer pays for all. Report
Here we see yet another example of what is wrong with this country.

When will personal responsibility come into play? I believe it will never come into play with such unjust rulings as this one being the norm.

Did this gal miss something?

Was the employer force feeding the young man so that he gained to the weight he was?

The employer in no way should be forced to pay for the young man's weight loss surgery! He was obviously very obese before the accident.

Sadly, such cases may well be used by employers as cause to think long & hard before hiring other over weight folks.

But then we have the new health bill - don't we? So it will be an overtaxed population who will be footing the bill for such surgeries!

And that is the way it is in the USA in the year 2010! Report
I think the insurance company should pay for the surgery. No matter if he gained weight due to an injury or not. People have carried insurance for years and never receive the full benefit of the money they pay into due to "legal and customary charges".
Wouldn't it be easier, cheaper and safer to just get him into a weight lost program or clinic? He's only gained 40 lbs since the accident, so I think the employer should only have to help with that.

-A Report
Absolutely not. His overweight status was not caused by his working there. This is just one example of what is wrong with our insurance in this country. We don't need health care reform, we need insurance reform! Report
Seems to me that this is just more evidence that very few chronic health problems have a single cause. What SHOULD happen? Worker's comp and the man's individual insurance should share the cost of the bariatric and spinal surgeries. What if the man doesn't have personal health insurance? Then we, as the wealthiest country on earth, need to go back to the question of why we seem unable to create a system to keep our citizens from giving up years and quality of life over lack of access to healthcare. Report
He was already very large. It's not the company's fault that he was big. He probably would have had back trouble anyway due to his size. If the company had done something wrong, sure, they should pay, but I don't see it that way. Report
Work had no control over his eating habits...I think not... Report
WOW! What an interesting situation. Putting aside our personal biases, it appears that he cannot have the back surgery UNTIL he has the lap band surgery to lose weight. And...if he were to lose the weight, he may not have to have the back surgery. For these reasons, I believe the company should pay for the lap band surgery with the definite possibility that he may not need the back surgery at the end. Report
I really wonder about the idea of personal accountability in our society/nanny state. Back surgery due to workplace injury - yes. Lapband surgery - emphatically not! Report
If the guy was not dangerously overweight prior to the incident, then yeah, I can see making the restaurant pay for all the consequences of the incident, including any weight gain that was a result of forced inactivity. It seems though that this guy was already in this state of being before the forced inactivity, which is not the restaurant's fault. They shouldn't have to pay for any weightloss under these circumstances, in my opinion. Report
I think if even the appeals court ruled in this guys favor that there may be some information we may not know creating more liability for the employer. One being perhaps the equipment was faulty. Report
No way should the employere have to pay for the lapband. The company should be held liable for the injury though - they made the decision to have the guy working in conditions that could cause injury and/or they didn't address a faulty freezer door that could cause injury - for that, they should pay. After the injury though, the guy gained 40 or a million pounds - who cares - he was the one stuffing the cream puffs into his mouth, not the company! Report
Absolutely not! If he'd been small to begin with & they had drug things out a long time or something maybe, but the difference between 340 & 380 is not causing the issue. being over 300 period is the issue & he did that himself. Report
no they should not have to pay for his weight loss surgery. that is crazy because he would not take the necessary steps to be healthy and then he got hurt on the job (probably due to his own negligence). i think they should pay for his spinal surgery but the lap band should be his responsibility. Report
I am so tired of people not taking responsibility for their own actions. I think that the restaurant should pay for the back surgery, but not for the lap band procedure. Report
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