Obesity and Disability

13/07/2015 Obesity and Disability

Last year the European Court of Justice held that a Danish childminder was disabled where his obesity hindered his "full and effective participation" at work.

The first harassment case in the UK on obesity (Bickerstaff v Butcher) has heard how the Claimant was told that he was "so fat he could hardly walk" and that he was "so fat he would hardly feel a knife being stuck into him".

Unsurprisingly the decision of the Employment Judge was that the Claimant had been "harassed for a reason which related to his disability, namely his "morbid obesity condition".

Whereas previously an employee harassed on the grounds of their obesity could only pursue a claim in the civil courts, this case now means that an employee who suffers abuse on grounds related to their obesity can now potentially pursue a disability discrimination claim at the Employment Tribunal.

The key message for employers is to ensure that your employees (especially managers) are fully aware and educated to the fact that if a person is obese they could have a disability and therefore should be treated in accordance with your company policy on equal treatment.

The question as to whether a person who is obese is disabled is a legal one, in that the statutory definition of a disability still has to be satisfied i.e. their condition has to be substantial and have a long term adverse effect upon their ability to carry out normal day to day activities.

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