Mansell Law Employment Attorneys » Can weight or obesity be a protected class or a disability? Sometimes, under the ADA…Mansell Law Employment Attorneys

Can weight or obesity be a protected class or a disability? Sometimes, under the ADA…

Discriminating against or terminating an employee because he or she is overweight is generally not unlawful.  Weight is not a protected class under Title VII, however, weight can be a characteristic of a medical condition.  Thus, in certain situations taking an adverse job action against an employee based on his or weight (too heavy or too thin) can be a violation of the ADA.  The Amendments Act to the ADA provides an expansive definition of medical conditions that render a person disabled under the law.  An individual must be able to perform the essential functions of his or her job with or without a reasonable accommodation.  If a medical condition causes an increase or decrease in weight, but you are still able to perform your job with or with accommodation, an employer’s adverse job action taken against you due to your weight violates the ADA.  Make sure your employer understands that you have a medical condition and that you request an accommodation, if necessary.

Read an article on Obesity under the ADA and a recent settlement on this topic.


It seems the law is trending toward obesity as a disability.  In February 2012 a Federal Judge held that severe obesity may be considered a disability.  In EEOC v. Resources for Human Development, Inc., No. 10-3322 (E.D.La. Dec. 7, 2011), the employee weighed over 500 pounds at the time of her termination.  The ADA does not specifically address obesity.  The Court relied on EEOC’s ADA Compliance Manual which states: “being overweight, in and of itself, is not generally an impairment…On the other hand, severe obesity, which has been defined as body weight more than 100% over the norm, is clearly an impairment.” More importantly, the individual does not have to prove his or her obesity was caused by an underlying health condition.  Here is an article on the topic:  Summary of Obesity as a Disability.  Remember: This is only one Court’s interpretation.  Other Courts have reached other conclusions.


3 Responses to Can weight or obesity be a protected class or a disability? Sometimes, under the ADA…

  1. Jiiwan says:

    I would recommend you talk to your dotcor first. If you have changed your eating and exercising habits and your weight is not coming off you may want to have your Thyroid Checked.I would never recommend anyone take a Diet Pill because they all say with diet and exercise and I am sorry to say there is no magic pill to help get the weight off.I can feel your pain. I have plateaued many times in my journey to lose 436 pounds. And I have bounced up and down. I am now down over 150 pounds in weight and I did it all through diet, seeing a nutritionist, and walking my dog and on a treadmill. It is not easy but I have never once taken a pill to help me get weight off. So please see your dotcor first. Find out if you have an underlying medical condition that is preventing you from getting those pounds off. He or She may be able to get your Thyroid working again, or suggest a nutritionist to help you reach your goals. But stay away from diet pills.

  2. LaVerne says:

    It is legal for an employer to take money out of my paycheck, because they classify me as “overweight”? They say its part of a wellness program.

  3. Greg says:

    Laverne, I would need more information on the reasoning for “taking money out of your paycheck.” Feel free to contact me at (614) 610-4134.

    Emmett, if you provide an email address to me, I will add it to me mailer list that I send around when I write new posts.

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