We just posted a couple weeks ago that the recent decision of the American Medical Association to declare obesity a disease would likely spur lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act. We wrote that “we are unaware of any new laws which treat obesity as a protected class, but the AMA’s action last week is sure to inspire a spate of new suits which claim that the disease of obesity is a disability under the ADA — citing the American Medical Association.”
Sure enough, we have now got ourselves the first such lawsuit. A self-described “severely obese” Missourian has just sued his former employer in federal court for allegedly firing him because of his weight. He alleges that “severe obesity … is a physical impairment within the meaning of the ADA,” and that his employer regarded him as being substantially limited in the major life activity of walking. He claims that at all times he was “able to perform the essential functions of his position with Defendant, with or without accommodation.”
Is obesity, now declared a disease by the AMA, also a “disability” under the ADA?
We wrote awhile ago that the EEOC settled a similar case brought under the ADA on behalf of an employee who it claimed was fired because he was “morbidly obese.” The fired employee weighed 680 pounds when employed, but the EEOC alleged that he was qualified to perform the essential functions of his job, and to have been denied any reasonable accommodations by his employer. Because the case was settled, we have no court determination of the issue.
Will this new case result in a decision one way or another? Stay tuned.
See Whittaker v. America’s Car-Mart, Inc., No. 1:13-cv-00108, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.