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Is obesity a protected class in discrimination laws?

When you have struggled with obesity or morbid obesity for many years, you get accustomed to the rude comments and stares. They still hurt, but you don’t let them affect your life. However, you probably never expected to lose your job due to obesity. If you lost your job or experienced a demotion due to your weight, you might wonder if the employer committed an illegal action.


Defining disability

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) states that a person has a legitimate disability if he or she meets the following classifications:

  • A mental or physical impairment that significantly limits your ability in one or more major areas of life
  • A history of this type of impairment
  • Others perceive the person to have a mental or physical impairment

However, the ADA doesn’t name specific disabilities in its legislation. If you feel that your employer discriminated against you due to your body size, it’s up to you to prove these three factors:

  • You suffered a disability or others regarded you as suffering a disability
  • Despite your weight, you could perform essential job functions either with or without reasonable accommodations
  • Your employer fired or demoted you because of your actual or perceived disability

Do you have a legitimate claim?

If your obesity limits at least one major activity in your life, whether at work or outside of work, it’s a disability under the law. Your employer must make reasonable accommodations if needed to ensure that you can perform the functions of your job. If your employer won’t consider making an accommodation and fires or demotes you instead, a court might rule that the employer committed employment discrimination. A consultation with an experienced lawyer can help you determine whether you have a case.

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