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.
Continue Reading

Obesity is still a hot topic both in our health conscious culture and in our courtrooms where we continue to see ADAAA claims based on the notion that an employer fired an employee because the employee was obese. After the ADA was amended, there was some question about how the courts would treat obesity under the ADAAA, especially claims alleging that the employer regarded the employee as disabled.  Fortunately, most federal courts to have considered the issue have concluded that obesity that is not a caused by an underlying physiological disorder is not a disability under the ADAAA.  On February 3, 2017, an Arizona district court joined the Eighth, Sixth, and Second Circuits in holding that obesity (including even morbid obesity) cannot qualify as a disability under the ADAAA unless it falls outside the normal range and occurs as the result of a physiological disorder.  In doing so, the Arizona court added its voice to the growing majority view expressly rejecting the EEOC’s contrary position on this issue.
Continue Reading