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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_CYNDY55_ 5/20/2017
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I think I would weigh the cost of the surgery against the cost of his extended time on disability. If a medical procedure saves the company/insurance any money by reducing the time on disability, then have the company pay for it. If it does not benefit the company, then the individual should pay for it.

Wouldn't it be in the company's best interest to pay for the surgery just to get the guy off of disability? If he can't have the surgery, he will be receiving worker comp checks longer. Also, it seems that the costs to the restaurant / insurance or claims agent in court costs and other legal fees for such a common procedure far outweigh the cost of the procedure.

I would need a lot more questions answered. Report
Ultimately whether the employer has to pay or not, would depend on the law and what it says. I'd have to say IMO that at some point, people need to take personal responsibility for things like their weight and some health conditions that can be controlled through diet and exercise. Of course there are people who have a medical condition that causes them to be unable to control their weight or whatever, but I think the vast majority choose to eat too much and move too little. The vast proliferation and popularity of "quick fix" supplements, etc are evidence of people's desires to NOT change their lifestyles. In the circumstance mentioned in the article.... perhaps the employer should pay for the lap band surgery and follow-up with a dietician, and a gym membership.... and then if the employee still manages to overeat and not lose any weight.... the back surgery should be on HIM. Report
I don't think that they should be FORCED to pay for the weight loss surgery, but in the long run, it may be a better option not only for the employee's health but for the business as well - they will have a healthier worker and their insurance costs might actually go down because there would no longer be complications from obesity in the future.

Of course, if you're working for a pizza joint, health may not be the primary thing on their minds in the first place, but. Report
Workers comp laws require that employers pay not only for any medical necessary to directly address the injury but also for any medical care necessary to ensure that the directly needed healthcare can be provided. For instance, my husband has a long standing low potassium problem. When he injured his shoulder at work and needed surgery for the injury, his low potassium put him at high risk of death during surgery. As a result he was prescribed potassium pills before the surgery and workers comp had to cover the cost of that medication even though it was addressing a preexisting condition. This is no different. The employer isn't being asked to pay for it just because it's a general medical need, but because it is a prerequisite to the care required for his work-related injury. Report
Under normal circumstances, I would find it ridiculous, but he WAS injured at work, and had that not happened, he would not have needed the surgery in the first place. But obviously there is no right or wrong answer in a case like this, and everyone is going to have varying opinions one way or the other. Report
This is an unfair question and an inflammatory article, just evoking a lot of hateful judgment. I doubt all of the legal definitions and evidence are included in this summary. Give the guy due process and rule of law. If our laws need to be changed, then Indiana can take that route.

No, the employer should not have to pay the cost of the lap band surgery. This is a personal responsibility. The employer was not responsible for the employee's weight. The employer can take responsibility for helping with the on the job injury, if at fault. That should be the limit of the employer's responsibility. Report
This is totally ridiculous! He obviously weighed too much when he was hired! Its not the employers responsibility to pay for a weight loss program of any kind,unless its stated in the contract and/or in the insurance policy.......lts sue and sue again...now lets raise the insurance premiums again and again....WAKE UP PEOPLE! Report
Some health care plans will not pay for this kind of surgery because as it states,the weighi is/was a preexisting condition. I had a client tell me that if he lost the weight, his heath would iimprove as he stated he was unable to exercise due to his weight, was having back problems and wanted the company/health pay for his surgery. He was told, if he lost the weight maybe his back would feel better. It's a hard call sometimes, when you don't know all of the facts. Report
I think employers should paid for surgery they paid for any other surgery why not something that will help their employee to be healthy and who can work more hours. Report
I'm on the fence on this one. I agree that he is entitled to compensation due to the fact that it happened at work but to have lap-band surgery, I'm not for it. He should get educated and he can lose some weight without exercising (I don't know of any other medical conditions so I am going by this alone). After that, work should be paying for back surgery. This can be tricky.

I broke my leg at work 6 years ago yesterday and my former employer still hasn't paid the bills and right now I am stuck with close to $40,000 in medical bills. Hopefully he is able to get some type of compensation. Report
I think that the employer should help pay for the weight loss surgery, but as others have said, nobody forced the food down his throat. there are exercises he could have done to help himself, even at that high weight. it isn't the employer's responsibility to "parent" their employees on healthy eating. Report
I love Karin1972's reply!!! I think that we should get out of the 'deserving' mentality and wanting everyone else to take the blame for our issues. Lap band surgery will not help him without realizing that he needs to help himself! We need to set ourselves free and realize that our destiny is within our own power. I am not against obese people. I was one! But it is only when I took responsibility for my own health that I turned things around! Report
By the way, I'd like to add, they knew what his physical state was like when they hired him. Report
Yes, they should have to pay. Because the weight loss is required as treatment of his worksite injury. Report
I was injured on the job and had to where a splint which affected how I did my job. My supervisor told me I would be protected by the disability laws up to the point where I was not able to fulfill my quota. Perhaps overweight people are discriminated against because they cannot get the job done as well as a person that is of normal weight.

And while the employee most likely was not exercising before the accident, his extra weight gain was a secondary cause to his injury. But he should lose the weight by another means.

My SIL said her doctor wanted her to get the surgery but she needed to lose weight before it could be done. Well, if she'd be successful to lose weight before having surgery, why not keep doing what she's doing? Duh! I don't understand Report
I would like to know why the writer thinks size discrimination is illegal. Equal opportunity means no discrimination against age, gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
Overweight and obese individuals ARE discriminated against regularly because there are no federal laws to protect against it. IF I'm wrong, please cite the source. Report
The Employer should pay as he would not have needed the surgery or the lap band in the first place if his workplace had been safe. All those ones saying no way, if a family member or friend got injured at work and this occurred would you not support them? It is one of the reasons why as an employer I pay insurance. Report
No, was already overweight. Report
There has got to be a better way to lose 40lbs in order to get back surgery. Report
This is ridiculous!

.....perhaps I can sue my company to make them pay for Botox....stress does cause wrinkles..... Report
And he should also receive a "Cadillac Escalade" and a few Gold Chains Report
no way Report
The company should pay for the corrective back surgery, but not the lap-band surgery. It's not like he gained 100+ pounds post-accident. He was already severely overweight before the accident, and I don't think he should be milking his company for the surgery. The doctors said losing weight may get rid of the need for surgery all together, so it seems that his weight was more of a problem than the fridge injury. Report
He should not have to pay for his surgery. The employer did not force feed him. He did it to himself. He should begin eating healthy and taking care of himself. I personally think that people believe that these surgeries are a quick fix. There are a lot of complications to these surgeries, that is why I am a Sparker! Report
I think that the employer should have to pay for the lap band. People put such a negative stigma on the lap band and gastric bypass. They are nothing more than tools, and doctors don't just give them out like candy. A couple of years ago, I was at a doctor's office to get a lap band, and my doctor required that I see a nutritionist both before and after the surgery. Although I have seen people fail to change their habits after surgery, people getting weight loss surgery have a higher chance of success than those who diet and exercise alone. Both depend on how much effort you put into them.

From a purely logical standpoint, back surgery is much more expensive than the lap band. For the employee to have to undergo multiple back surgeries due to his weight, the company would loose more money. The lap band has about a 50% success rate, whereas the success rate for an obese person is around 15%. You can't separate the weight and the back pain. One directly effects the other. Report
Workman's Comp was set in place to protect employees if injured on the job. This man was injured on the job. The employer should pay for the surgery on his back.
What the employee needs to do before getting that back surgery, in my opinion, is on him. He had a weight issue before the accident. Report
I agree with "50"--there is a log of negative comments. Do we only Choose things that "we" feel represent dis-able? Report
I guess my question is, if WC pays for his Lap Band surgery and he fails to lose the weight, or the weight loss doesn't fix his back, do they then have to pay for the back surgery?

This surgery may be a quick fix for him, but it won't be a forever fix unless he is taught to eat properly, exercise, and deal with whatever issues he had that got him to 300+ pounds. Report
Obese people are often discriminated against and I just see this as another thing in the back of the mind of anyone interviewing an obese person in the future. He should be ashamed of himself for adding to the negativity! Report
I'm so ashamed that I live in Indiana right now. That is absolutely freaking ridiculous. He gained 40 pounds. Not 140, not 240, 40. I get that because of his weight, the surgery was risky. But I am fairly certain the back surgery would have been risky at 340 too. It is HIS fault that he weighs 340. It might not be his fault that he was injured, and he is entitled to disability with that. I think paying a nutritionist, for weight watchers, something to get him down to 340, but you don't need weight loss surgery to lose 40 pounds. If the injury caused him to gain 200 pounds, I might feel differently, but that isn't the case. Report
I feel the employer should have to pay for his surgery and what ever it takes to restore him to preinjury state. Sometimes injuries have a domino effect and unfortunately this sounds like case. Report
That's nut! When are people going to take responsibility for their own problems instead of blaming others? Any of us could get him down to his slender "340" by teaching him how to eat properly! Report
Interesting. Problem is he is the one who got himself up to the 3 hundred something in the first place, but maybe they should pay for the weight he put on by not being able to move, and then he can pay for the lap band himself, and then they pay for the actual surgery. Sooner or later for any kind of surgery he would have had to probably loose weight first. Report
I think that the employer should only have to pay for what it will take to restore him to what he was before the injury. Maybe get him a nutritionist and a personal trainer, but not surgery. He needs to modify his habits or he will continue to be overweight. Report
Yes the employer should pay. The reason is the freezer door hit the man. Unsafe working conditions. Also, 340 pounds doesn't tell the whole story. Is he 6'7' tall, with a 56" chest, 24" biceps. Does he lift weights? We don't have all the facts.

He was hurt at work. I agree with the court rulings, based on what we know. Report
People get that large by eating too much and not exercising. No way should his employer have to pay for lap band surgery. Report
That would be an insurance or workmans comp issue. If he doesn't have insurance, that is his bad. I 'm tired of people not taking responsibility and expecting everyone else to be accountable. Report
Absolutely not.
1. He already weighed 340. That extra 40 pounds didn't add all THAT much to his risk in surgery. He was already high risk.
2. As someone else said, back surgery almost never helps, and often causes even more pain down the road. The sensible thing for him to do is to lose weight and begin exercising. I agree with the people who said that a reasonable compromise might be for his employer to pay for a dietician and personal trainer, but I don't think they should have to pay even for that if he doesn't put in the work to make it work. I'm overweight, too, and it is nobody's "fault" but my own. Too bad, so sad. You want it fixed, fix it yourself.
3. I'm also not a fan of the weight loss surgeries--any of them. Have you seen the diet you have to follow for these things to keep working? If you skipped the surgery and didn't eat any more than that, you would lose weight anyway--a few tablespoons of food at a time, no carbonated beverages, etc etc
4. I'm with whoever said that we are way too sue-happy in this society, and I'm tired of things that are within the control of the person being considered to be "disabilities". If you are paralyzed and in a wheelchair because of it, that is a disability. If you are blind or deaf, that is a disability. If you are overweight, alcoholic, drug addicted, etc--that is ultimately in your control, no matter how difficult that control might be. It is NOT a disability, and I rather resent being labeled "mentally ill" because I haven't taken control of my own destiny. I know people who really are mentally ill, and it is NOT in their control. Let's leave the Politically Correct View of Everything We Don't Want Personal Responsibility For behind us, and get on with being normal, fallible human beings. Report
I don't think they should pay, how about pay for a nutritionist, he can lose weight without being mobile,it will be harder. And BTW size is not part of the anti discrimination law, maybe in his state,but I'm pretty sure it isn't in any state. Maybe if they classify it as a disability, then it would be. Do you want to be labeled as disabled because you are overweight though? Report
I'm sorry, but did the employer slam the refrigerator door on him? I think all of these slip and fall cases are ridiculous. There should be some sort of personal liability and disability insurance. If this business was on the edge of the fence fiscally, this could cause it to go bankrupt just because a door hit him in the back. Sure this was a weird accident and this guy is bad off because of it, but it wasn't the employer's fault.
I am overweight. It is my fault. I think the opposite ruling should have happened. The company doesn't have to pay for the back surgery until the employee loses the weight. The article even said that losing weight may fix the issue. I feel sorry for the guy, but America is going down the drain because no one thinks anything is their own fault.

Sorry for the rant. Have a great day. Report
I personally think weight loss surgery should be covered by insurance in general. As to whether his work should have to pay, I think not. Even at 340, he would have been at risk for the surgery, and he was that weight when he started work.

But I agree that, though weight discrimination is illegal, businesses will find ways to avoid hiring obese people if they fear they will be faced with additional health insurance costs. Report
The anti-inflammatory/pain meds could've easily added the weight. The employer should be responsible for him causing to gain 40 lbs. Hopefully this will solve his back troubles. Report
Seems to me that it would fall under a pre-existing condition. So no, I don't believe they should have to pay. Sounds to me like the man needs help more than he needs surgery! Report
They absolutely shouldn't have to! His weight was a pre-existing condition. The company was responsible for any (reasonable) accomodations that he needed to do his job with that pre-existing conditions. Paying for his injury and the related expenses is something they should cover. So, he injured his back. They should only be responsible for paying for his PT. If they wanted to be generous, a dietician. But an expensive surgery to fix something pre-existing? No. If his doctors want him to lose weight to have the surgery, that's his business. If a diabetic needs to get their blood sugar under control before surgery, nobody would be saying it's the company's responsibility to make sure it happens. Report
NO, actually I think his employer should have fired him for eating the profits lol.. All the industrial kitchens I have worked in it is a huge no no to eat the food..
You pay for it, or take your lunch box. Get catch eating in the kitchen that's grounds to get fired! Report
He might not have been able to exercise... but at 340lbs I'm guessing he didn't exercise before that either. They should pay for injures caused by the accident, they should NOT have to pay for him to lose weight. Pre-existing conditions are sometimes hard to prove but in this case his pre-existing condition of being overweight was obvious from the day he started. Report
No. they shouldn't have to pay for lap-band.. because it is a bad procedure.. However the doctor said if he lost weight he wouldn't need back surgery.
So they should pay for required visits to a dietitian, and possibly a personal trainer who is versed in back injuries... Report
Back surgery has a very low success rate, and multiple surgery's are common. The employer should reach a settlement for the cost of back surgery with the employee and he can use the money for what ever surgery he decides.
Its disappointing to hear your remarks when were all trying to lose weight or we wouldn't be on this site!! Report
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