Nearly two decades ago, obese people in the workplace had no protection against discrimination based on their weight. Over the course of 20 years, probably hundreds of people in Indiana and across the nation have been fired not because their performance was slipping or because they weren’t meeting expectations for their specific job but because their bosses felt that they were “too fat.”
But in 2011, Congress tried to change all of that by amending the Americans with Disabilities Act to extend workplace disability protection to morbidly obese people. “There’s a big change going on right now,” says the director of legal initiatives at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. “Until recently, most courts rejected obesity discrimination claims outright. But now that the EEOC and the courts agree that morbid obesity is a disability, this also changes the way courts will consider [future] cases.”
In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, or the EEOC, gained settlements in its first two major cases on weight-related workplace discrimination, marking a milestone for equal opportunity rights.
Though Congress’ push for fairness in the workplace has picked up more followers, some on both sides of the fence, there are still some who feel that this may not have been the right move pointing out that there needs to be further clarification for disability coverage. Because protected disabilities are “impairments that substantially limit a major life activity” and because obesity can have the same effects, this is why many argue it should be covered. Some, on the other hand, have argued otherwise leaving many to wonder how this will affect future cases involving discrimination.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Obesity Discrimination on the Job Provokes Dispute over Best Remedy,” Christina Wilkie, Oct. 4, 2012