Addleshaw Goddard

UK 200 2013 position: 23

Advocate-general considers that morbid obesity may amount to a disability

In the case Kaltoft v Kommunernes Landsforening, acting on behalf of the Municipality of Billund, the advocate-general has given an opinion that morbid obesity may amount to a disability. While there is no free-standing prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of obesity within EU law, it is possible for morbid obesity to amount to a disability where it hinders a worker’s full participation in professional life on an equal footing with other workers.

Mr Kaltoft was employed in Denmark as a childminder for 15 years before he was dismissed. Mr Kaltoft is 1.72m tall (circa 5ft 6in) and weighed 160kg (circa 25 stones) or more throughout his 15 years of service. This translated to a body mass index (BMI) of 54 and meant that he was morbidly obese according to the World Health Organization system of classification.

Mr Kaltoft was dismissed on 22 November 2010. During meetings held to discuss the dismissal, the issue of his obesity was raised, although the parties disagreed on whether it was stated that the obesity formed part of the basis for the dismissal decision. The employer’s position was that Mr Kaltoft’s role was redundant. However, Mr Kaltoft believed that he had been dismissed because of his obesity and that this was discriminatory…

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