Obesity May Be Covered By The Americans With Disabilities Act or the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act

Just who may be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) is not always clear. But, answering this question is crucial. The ADA/ADAAA protects qualified individual with disabilities from work place discrimination and harassment in several significant ways.

Not all injuries, illnesses or even medically defined disabilities are covered by the ADA. The ADA projects a specific class of individuals-qualified individuals with a disability. A qualified individual with a disability is an individual with any medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition that substantially limits a major life activity. Temporary conditions or conditions that, although serious don’t substantially limit any of your major life activities are not covered.

The ADAAA revised some of the key provisions of the ADA, broadening in some instances the definition of “disability.” Thus, although obesity was not generally considered an actionable impairment or disability under the ADA, with the passage of the ADAAA courts around the country and the EEOC have been more likley to include obesity as a disability in certain circumstances.

If you believe you may have suffered employment discrimination as the result of your weight, it’s important to consult with a top Atlanta disability discrimination attorney right away.

After the ADAAA became effective, establishing a discrimination claim based on being “regarded as” having an impairment became a bit easier. The definition of “disability” broadened, with an employee no longer having to show that an employer perceived him or her to be substantially limited in a major life activity. Instead, an employee must simply demonstrate that the employer took a prohibited adverse action based on the employee’s actual or perceived physical or mental impairment. As a result, where employers take negative employment actions against an individual because they believe his or her weight is an impairment, that worker may have a claim for disability discrimination.

Additionally, the EEOC compliance manual provides some support for obesity claims noting that “being overweight, in and of itself, generally is not an impairment, … severe obesity, which has been defined as body weight more than 100% over the norm is clearly an impairment.” A few federal courts have also eliminated the requirement that a physiological disorder cause the obesity in order for it to be considered an ADA/ADAAA-covered “disability.”

The bottom line – courts around the country are beginning to recognize that if an employer takes a negative employment action against you based on your weight, or perceived limitations due to your weight, you may have a claim for disability discrimination.

For more information, please contact the experienced George disability discrimination law firm of Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.