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Total Articles: 27

Ninth Circuit Dodges the Question of Whether Morbid Obesity is an “Impairment” Under the ADA; EEOC Says Yes

On August 20, 2019, the Ninth Circuit dodged answering the question of whether morbid obesity is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In Valtierra v. Medtronic Inc., No. 17-15282, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, but came short of joining the Second, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Circuits in explicitly holding that obesity cannot constitute a disability under applicable EEOC regulations unless there is evidence that the obesity is caused by an underlying physiological condition.

Is Morbid Obesity a Protected Disability? Ninth Circuit Weighs In But Doesn’t Answer the Question

Today’s post highlights one of many examples of cases employers should never have to spend tens of thousands of dollars litigating. In this case, Valtierra v. Medtronic, the plaintiff worked for Medtronic for 10 years and apparently was obese throughout his employment. Plaintiff, whose job was to maintain and repair Medtronic’s manufacturing equipment, admittedly falsified computer records to indicate that he had completed repair assignments when, in fact, he had not done the work. Medtronic fired him (duh). Unable to accept personal responsibility for his own misconduct, Plaintiff sued Medtronic, alleging that he was fired because of his purported disability – morbid obesity.

Seventh Circuit Holds That Obesity Alone Is Not a Protected Disability Under the ADA

In a matter of first impression before the court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held in Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority, Nos. 17-3508 and 18-2199 (June 12, 2019), that obesity is not a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unless a plaintiff can demonstrate that it is caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition. With the decision, the Seventh Circuit brought clarity to a novel issue previously unresolved for employers in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The holding brings the Seventh Circuit in line with decisions on the issue from the Second Circuit, Sixth Circuit, and Eight Circuit.

Federal Appeals Court Says Extreme Obesity Alone Is Not Enough For ADA Coverage

A federal Court of Appeals just ruled that extreme obesity not caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition does not qualify as an impairment under the ADA. Under the 7th Circuit’s June 12 ruling, proof that extreme obesity was caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition is necessary to implicate coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act. What can employers take from the Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority decision?

Seventh Circuit Holds Obesity is not ADA Impairment Absent Underlying Physiological Cause

On June 12, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling in the case of Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority, which was the appeal of a dismissal of the case after the lower court found that obesity is not an impairment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) absent an underlying physiological cause. An issue of first impression in the Seventh Circuit (the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin), the court agreed with prior decisions in the Second, Sixth, and Eighth Circuits, and upheld the dismissal. The Seventh Circuit held that obesity is not an ADA impairment unless there is evidence of an underlying physiological cause. It also held that CTA did not perceive the plaintiff, a 596-pound bus driver, to be disabled when it terminated him due to safety issues.

Obesity ? Protected Class

Making fun of a co-worker’s weight may be rude, but is it illegal? A New Jersey court recently addressed claims of disability discrimination and hostile work environment by an employee complaining of comments made by co-workers about his weight.

Plaintiff With PTSD Not Disabled Under The ADA, Sixth Circuit Rules

The Sixth Circuit’s ruling in Tinsley v. Caterpillar Fin. Servs., Corp., No. 18-5303 (6th Cir. Mar. 20, 2019) is a good reminder that not all impairments rise to the level of a “disability” within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In addition to showing a physical or mental impairment, ADA plaintiffs also must show that the impairment “substantially limits one or more major life activities” to have a disability under the ADA.

Federal Court of Appeals To Decide Whether Morbid Obesity Is An Impairment

We know that the ADAAA (Amendments Act of 2008) substantially altered the landscape for review of claims asserting a disability. But are employees still required to show some sort of disorder or impairment to state a claim? Is morbid obesity an impairment even if it is not tied to any underlying disorder? A case pending before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is set to decide whether obesity is an impairment in and of itself under the ADAAA.

Obesity and The ADA

Is obesity a disability?

Alabama [Federal] Court Decides an Individual with a Partially Amputated Foot is not Disabled Under the ADA

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) made a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability.” Much of the change had to do with making it easier for an individual to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the statute. As a result employers have been accepting many more medical conditions as a covered disability and moving directly to the analysis of potential accommodations. A recent decision by the U.S. District Court in Alabama reminded us that the analysis of an employer’s obligations under the ADA must start with determining the specific functional limitations of the applicant or employee.

Is Santa Disabled? Obesity, The ADAAA, and The Most Famous Driver Of All

The most famous reindeer of all may be Rudolph, but St. Nick has the lock on being the most famous driver in the entire transportation industry.

Supreme Court Ends Obese Applicant’s ADA Claim

The nation’s highest Court began its new term on Monday, October 3, 2016 by, among other things, declining to review the Eighth Circuit’s ruling that an obese applicant did not have an actual or “regarded as” disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

Is Obesity a "Disability" Under the ADA? Not Without Physical Impairment, Eighth Circuit Rules

Obesity does not meet the definition of a “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for either the discrimination or “regarded as” provisions of the statute, a panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held, unless it is also a “physical impairment,” which means that it must be a “physiological disorder or condition . . . affecting one or more major body systems.” As a result, in Morriss v. BNSF Railway Co., the Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the railroad.

Obesity Alone as a Disability? Slim Chance, Says Eighth Circuit

A memorable scene from the dark comedy “In Bruges” features a clash between a disgraced Irish assassin, played by Colin Farrell, and three portly American tourists after Farrell’s character warns them not to climb the narrow stairway to the belfry of Bruges’ iconic medieval tower. As the Americans nonetheless proceed toward the tower, he dismissively shrugs, uttering “it’s Americans, isn’t it?”

Is Obesity a Disability?

A case currently pending before the Eighth Circuit will address whether ADA protections should extend to obese workers. With more than 2/3 of the US adult population considered overweight, recognition of obesity as a disability under the ADA – defined as physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities – will result in accommodations and protections in unprecedented numbers.

Anxiety Over the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace. Under the ADA, an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability if the employee requests an accommodation. Employers should take note of a recent decision that includes a new class within the definition of disability. In Jacobs v. N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, the court reversed the district court and found that social anxiety disorder is a protected disability under the ADA.

Obesity as a Disability Under the ADA: Is it More Likely Now Than Before?

In July, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a new policy that officially labels obesity as a disease, “requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.” According to the AMA’s Council on Science and Public Health, a “disease” is defined as having the following criteria: 1) an impairment of the normal functioning of some aspect of the body; 2) characteristic signs or symptoms; and 3) harm or morbidity.

Legal Alert: Obesity Is A Disease, But Is It a Disability?

Executive Summary: The American Medical Association's (AMA's) declaration that obesity is a disease could open the door to a new wave of lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

How to Weigh in Obesity in Employment Decisions

Imagine you are the Hiring Manager for a distribution warehouse and have just begun interviewing applicants for a materials handler position. The first candidate enters the room, standing at a height of 5'4," weighing more than 500 pounds. You continue the interview and learn that his qualifications are quite notable, but you can't help but consider how his weight may possibly affect his work performance. You anticipate that his obesity might put him at a greater risk of developing serious illnesses that may lead to absenteeism. You also fear that accommodations may be required for him to use the fork lift and other machinery, and you worry he may pose a safety threat if he were unable to move quickly enough to evacuate in the event of an emergency.

Weighing The Risks Of Not Hiring Obese Applicants

While most supervisors intuitively recognize and grasp some fundamentals of non-discrimination laws, other questions are becoming increasingly complicated, even for seasoned human resources professionals. Setting aside the complexity of issues like "admissible evidence" or "disparate impact," it's easy to understand that employment decisions should not and cannot be based upon factors such as race, national origin, gender, age, pregnancy, or disability. Federal and state laws make this abundantly clear. On the other hand, emerging issues, some of which are arguably more related to lifestyle choices than immutable characteristics, continue to raise complicated questions.

Are Obese Employees The Next Protected Class?

A Texas hospital is under fire from an activist group because of a hiring policy that precludes obese applicants from seeking employment at the facility. The Citizens’ Medical Center in Victoria, Texas, requires that applicants have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 35 – a requirement that prevents obese applicants from being considered for employment. The hospital’s hiring policy states that employees should “fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional.” Obese individuals do not meet the image of a healthcare professional that the hospital believes its employees should convey and accordingly, are not eligible for hire.

Body Mass Index As a Hiring Criteria

Hat tip to (probably my favorite blog title in our corner of the world) the Evil HR Lady for catching news from my own back yard, see the original news article, Victoria Hospital Won't Hire Very Obese Workers, as Victoria is just a couple of hours down the road from me, but also a brilliant commentary on the policy itself.

EEOC Files Lawsuit Claiming Obesity Discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed a lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act, alleging that Resources for Human Development, Inc. (RHD) illegally fired an employee because of her obesity. The lawsuit is pending in federal district court in Louisiana.

Making "Scents" Of The ADA: Accommodating Employees' Sensitivity To Odors In The Workplace

Employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate requests by disabled employees for a modification of their job duties or the workplace environment in order for them to perform the essential functions of their position. Failure to engage in such a process can be an expensive proposition for an employer – as the City of Detroit found out in McBride v. The City of Detroit.

Agoraphobic Faculty Member Could Not Support ADA/FMLA Claims.

In an unpublished opinion, the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s determination that an associate professor’s termination was appropriate, even though the professor claimed that he was disabled by agoraphobia.

Two Players Blitz NFL With ADA Lawsuits.

The National Football League is used to dealing with players with injuries – sprained muscles, concussions, broken limbs and bruised ribs are a daily part of life with football players. But recently, two players with a different kind of medical problem have filed lawsuits against the NFL. They are the first players to allege that the NFL is discriminating against them because of an unfair perception that they are alcoholics.

Sixth Circuit Rejects Dockworkers ADA Claim (pdf).

Finds workers obesity is not a protected "impairment".
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