Last year we discussed whether for ADA purposes obesity is a disease — as was held by a new decisison by the American Medical Association. We posted that the AMA declaration that obesity is 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 noted, the first such lawsuit was filed, by a self-described “severely obese” Missourian. He sued his former employer in federal court for allegedly firing him because of his weight, claiming 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 claimed that at all times he was “able to perform the essential functions of his position with Defendant, with or without accommodation.”
According to an article today in Law360, the employer contended that plaintiff’s severe obesity was not an actual disability under the ADA unless it is related to an underlying physical disorder or condition
Well, according to Law360, the Court just ruled that the employee alleged a viable claim that he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA, finding that the company “relied on case law construing disability based on the more restrictive approach applied before Congress passed the broader Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008. America’s Car-Mart’s reliance on a statement in U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines that obesity is only considered a disability in rare circumstances is likewise misguided as that language was omitted following the passage of the 2008 act. …”
This decision, coming after the AMA delaration, is surely likely to spur more suits.