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Can Employers Discriminate Against Obesity?


Anti-discrimination laws apply to those with certain characteristics that are protected by law. Obesity itself isn’t one of these characteristics, but disability is. This means employers who discriminate against obese employees do so at the risk of a disability discrimination lawsuit.

Medically speaking, obesity is determined when someone’s body mass index (BMI) is over 30. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 42% of adult Americans are obese, a statistic that has risen from around 30% in 2000. This implies that more Americans than ever before are obese, and many of them are currently in the workforce.

Discrimination Against Obesity at Work

Obese employees can experience weight discrimination at work in a multitude of ways. Common experiences involve jokes and unwanted comments about an employee’s size or health. Unsolicited advice about weight loss, dieting, and exercise are also common.

There are also more serious employment-related consequences of weight discrimination at work. Employers can penalize obese employees with higher health insurance premiums, deny them raises and promotions, and even terminate them based upon their size and weight.

For employees who have endured this treatment, the worst part is that most of it may be completely legal – but that doesn’t always mean it is.

Does the ADA Protect Against Weight Discrimination?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not directly protect against body size or weight discrimination, but it can protect obese employees from disability discrimination.

If an employee is obese because of an underlying disability, then the ADA can protect them from unfair treatment based on that disability. Likewise, obese people may develop ADA-protected disabilities because of their weight. If an employer discriminates against an employee for a weight-related disability, then the ADA might also protect the employee from discrimination.

Were You Unlawfully Treated at Work?

Obese people can experience all kinds of abuse from their coworkers and employers. If that abuse involves a disability, however, employees can take legal action to holder their employers accountable for discrimination.

Pursuing any disability discrimination lawsuit requires professional and dependable legal counsel. At K2 Employment Law, our attorneys can offer personalized representation that thoroughly investigates your claim and builds the kind of case that can help you prevail.

If you want to learn more about how we can help you, contact K2 Employment Law online now and request a free initial consultation.