In a decision that could have a significant impact for employers, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that obesity could, in some cases, be a disability.
In November 2010, Mr Kaltoft, a Danish childminder, was dismissed after 15 years’ service. He was severely obese during his employment. Mr Kaltoft claimed that he was the only childminder made redundant and that the decision was because of his obesity; as a result he brought discrimination proceedings. The Danish court asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to clarify:
Is discrimination on the grounds of obesity in the workplace prohibited under any general principle of EC law? The ECJ said ‘no’.
Can obesity constitute a "disability" under the EC Equal Treatment Directive (the Directive)? The ECJ said ‘yes’ if the employee’s obesity ‘hinders on their full and effective participation in professional life on an equal basis with other workers’
According to the ECJ’s ruling, an obese person will only be considered to be disabled if they satisfy certain criteria relating to disability under national law. However, it seems likely that a severely obese employee will now only need to reference the fact his or her mobility makes working life more challenging, in order to claim protection under discrimination legislation.
Although obesity does not automatically mean that an employee is disabled, employers need to consider whether they can and should make any reasonable adjustments to make working life fairer for any obese employees.
For further information or to discuss any of the issues raised, please contact Emma Clark at Abbiss Cadres on (+44) 203 051 5711.
Content is for general information purposes only. The information provided is not intended to be comprehensive and it does not constitute or contain legal or other advice. If you require assistance in relation to any issue please seek specific advice relevant to your particular circumstances. In particular, no responsibility shall be accepted by the authors or by Abbiss Cadres LLP for any losses occasioned by reliance on any content appearing on or accessible from this article. For further legal information see our legal page.
Circular 230 disclosure
To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS and other taxing authorities, we inform you that any tax advice contained in this article (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties that may be imposed on any taxpayer or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.
If you would like to copy or otherwise reproduce this article then you may do so provided that: (1) any such copy or reproduction is for your own personal use or if it is made available to any third party it is done so on a free of charge basis; and (2) the article is reproduced in full together with the contact details, disclaimer and any logos as they appear on each article.