“Severe obesity” is a disability under the ADA and a plaintiff need not prove an underlying physiological basis for it, according to a Louisiana federal court. The court denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment. EEOC v. Resources for Human Dev., E.D. La., 12/7/11).
Noting that there is no federal law prohibiting discrimination based on obesity, the court reviewed decisions by courts of appeals which had previously considered whether obesity is a disability under federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a disability. The Second and Sixth Circuits had held in ADA cases that morbid obesity was not an impairment, and thus not a disability under the ADA, except where the obesity related to a physiological disorder. The First Circuit had held in a Rehabilitation Act case that morbid obesity was a physical impairment.
The plaintiff oversaw a day care program for children. When hired, she weighed more than 400 pounds; when terminated eight years later, she weighed 527 pounds. She died while her discrimination charge was pending; the EEOC filed this suit on behalf of her estate.