When I read about this in the Chicago Tribune I was taken aback. The article's subtitle was " Morbid obesity, regardless of the cause, is increasingly viewed by courts as a disability, especially in regards to workplace discrimination lawsuits."
The test case was about a woman who weighed 527 pounds and stood 5-foot-2 inches. She might look like this image.
She believed her employer was discriminating against her because of her weight and took them to court over it. In a groundbreaking ruling the court sided with her saying that severe obesity may quality as a disability, regardless of the cause.
Unfortunately she died in 2011 at the age of 48. While the debated raged on over who was disabled by weight, the courts increasingly sided with the plaintiffs. Blame or causation, in fact, should not be considered in weight-related discrimination.
Obesity, which is increasingly being recognized as a disease, can be both a cause and a consequence of disability. Research shows that increased body weight is associated with an increase of becoming more disabled.
Once you hit the threshold of "morbidly obese", the court would likely find in favor of your case. A morbidly obese adult is at least 100 pounds over a healthy weight and has a body mass index over 40.
"Morbid obesity is a chronic, nearly impossible to treat with exercise and diet alone~bariatric surgery is the only viable option and it can interfere with bending over to get into a car. Other conditions can include hypertension, low back pain, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, endocrine disorder , sleep apnea and depression." (taken from the article, not necessarily my opinion)
In the US, nearly 36 percent of adults are classified as obese in 2012. Now 6.6 percent or 15.5 million are morbidly obese. Though obesity rates are generally flattening, morbid obesity is increasing at a very fast pace which is kicking it over to the disability side.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on disability was amended in 2009, making it easier for a morbidly obese individual to qualify as being disabled. So which way can you turn?
For most disabilities the courts will have to deal with many unanswered questions. They will want to know if someone has a physical or mental impairment and, if so, whether that impairment limits a major life activity. One woman who weighed 400 pounds was hired to oversee a state program. Her condition made it hard for her to walk and she filed for disability in the work place.
The Montana Supreme Court, citing that woman's case, held that obesity alone, without any underlying condition, constitutes an impairment. This is very important because in many cases the cause of the plaintiff's morbid obesity would be impossible to prove.
This is the law that covers morbid obesity discrimination in the work place and is a step in the right direction if you feel it applies to you.
Of course you may be morbidly obese and not be able to work because of impairment. In this case, it would be proper grooming and the inability to take appropriate naps.
Your investigative reporter~Jessica