No such thing as obesity discrimination….or is there?

Following the case of Walker v Sita Information Networking Computing Limited, in which the EAT held that a 21 stone employee did suffer from a qualifying disability, there has been a further development to the legal concept of disability discrimination and obesity.

In Walker, The Honourable Mr Justice Langstaff held that obesity was not a qualifying disability in its own right.  In Kaltoft v The Municipality of Billund, the Advocate General has this week issued an opinion on the issue.  The Advocate General was primarily concerned with the question of whether obesity on its own could qualify as a disability.

AG pointed out that disability covers a physical or mental condition which makes carrying out a particular job or participating in professional life objectively more difficult and demanding.  It was stated that obesity can be a disability where the limitations which the condition entails hinder full participation in professional life.

If the obesity has an impact on the individual’s ability to participate in work, the condition may be a disability.  AG concluded that only those with a BMI (body mass index) in excess of 40 would be likely to suffer such a hindrance so as to render them disabled.

The upshot remains consistent with Langstaff’s findings: obesity is not on its own a protected characteristic.

Jack Boyle
Senior Solicitor – Employment Law

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