Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Discriminating Against Obese Employees
Court rules that severe obesity is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Louisiana

Key point 8-14.1. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers with at least 15 employees, and that are engaged in interstate commerce, from discriminating in any employment decision against a qualified individual with a disability who is able, with or without reasonable accommodation from the employer, to perform the essential functions of the job. Accommodations that impose an undue hardship upon an employer are not required. Religious organizations may give preference to nondisabled members of their faith over disabled persons who are members of a different faith.

A federal district court in Louisiana ruled that severe obesity is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A 400-pound woman (the "plaintiff") was hired to oversee a day care program for the children of mothers staying at a residential treatment facility for chemically dependent women and their children. Eight years later, the plaintiff was fired. At the time of her termination, she weighed 527 pounds. She filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that she had been terminated because her employer regarded her as disabled due to her obesity. The plaintiff died shortly after filing her complaint with the EEOC. Her death certificate listed the cause of death as "morbid obesity." Following her death, the plaintiff's estate continued her claim of discrimination.

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Posted: July 1, 2012
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