Employment law 2014 preview: health

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Does the fact that a person is obese mean they are, or could be, ‘disabled’? The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has been asked by Denmark whether discrimination on the grounds of obesity is contrary to EU law, specifically whether obesity can be deemed to be a handicap covered by the relevant Council Directive (which the EA 2010 implements in the UK).

It will be interesting to see whether the CJEU takes a restrictive approach or takes note of the recent decision of the American Medical Association to categorise obesity as a ‘disease’ rather than a condition, which may make it more likely that the US courts consider obese workers to be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If obesity itself can give rise to discrimination claims, rather than impairments that are a consequence of being obese, what difference will this make? It will mean that, in addition to having a duty of care to make reasonable adjustments for those who suffer from physical or mental impairments as a result of being obese, employers are required to make adjustments where workers have difficulty carrying out normal day-to-day activities simply because they are obese…

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