Can Your Employer Fire You Because Of Your Weight? Maybe.

Obesity is a problem for many people but is a disability? The answer to that question could determine whether or not your employer can fire you because of your weight.

What's The Difference Between Being Overweight And Being Obese?

Almost 70% of U.S. adults are overweight, and 35% of those adults are obese. Obesity is determined by a person's body mass index or BMI. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

Severe obesity, where a person's BMI is over 40 is called "morbid obesity" and can be seriously debilitating. Morbidly obese individuals can suffer from painful joints, diabetes, difficulty breathing, and a host of other symptoms related to their excessive weight.

The Law Protects Employees From Disability Discrimination.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from being discriminated against at work due to their disability. It also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities so that they can continue to do their jobs whenever possible.

What's considered "reasonable" varies from situation to situation, but it's usually defined as any accommodation that wouldn't cause an employer undue hardship. For example, allowing an overweight bank cashier to sit at his or her window, rather than stand, would likely be considered a reasonable request.

Obesity's Status As A Disability Is Very Uncertain.

While the American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease in 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) doesn't automatically equate obesity with a disability. Each case of alleged discrimination based on obesity is essentially taken on its own merits, depending on an assessment of the individual involved.

Anyone who wants legal protection at work under the ADA has to prove that they are substantially disabled in some way due to obesity in order to be regarded as disabled. This has made the outcome of lawsuits on the behalf of those fired due to their weight very uncertain.

For example, in one lawsuit, a woman successfully sued a major U.S. corporation for denying her a job due to her weight. However, a recent suit involving a 540lb. blackjack dealer who was fired due to his weight was denied. The court said that the blackjack dealer was unable to prove that his weight actually interfered substantially in any way in his life. Therefore, despite his extreme size, his obesity wasn't considered a disability.

Where You Live Could Make A Difference In Your Case.

The state of Michigan and several U.S. cities have given obese people the same legal workplace protections that are given other minorities. In those particular areas, you would only have to prove that your employer discriminated against you based on your weight in order to win your lawsuit.

In other areas, you would probably have to prove that your obesity is significantly disabling in some way in order to win your case. Or, you might be able to rely on other conditions that you suffer as a result of the obesity - such as diabetes - to make your case.

While there's no certain outcome in any legal battle, if you've been discriminated against at work on the basis of your extreme weight, talk to an attorney like one from Philip L. Burnett, Attorney At Law about your situation. You may very well be able to prove that your condition is a disability and that you deserve legal protection for it at work.