Employment law 2013 review: disability discrimination

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Does the fact that a person is obese mean they are, or could be, ‘disabled’ for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010? If their obesity affects their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, should they be protected from discrimination because they are overweight?

Earlier this year, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) considered this issue in the case of Walker v Sita Information Networking Computing Ltd. The EAT held that although obesity alone cannot amount to an ‘impairment’ that renders a person disabled, the fact that a person is obese might make it more likely that they do have an impairment (for example heart problems or diabetes) or could affect the ‘long-term’ nature of their impairment. The key, as ever, is the consequence, not the cause of the condition.

But an area to watch: in June, the Danish courts referred the question of whether discrimination on the grounds of obesity is contrary to EU law and whether obesity can be deemed to be a handicap covered by the relevant Council Directive (Kaltoft)…

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