The Danger of Calling Obesity a Disability

Obese people, perhaps especially women, face a lot of discrimination. A question that is increasingly asked is whether they should be legally protected from acts of prejudice. Shouldn't people who are obese be judged on their merits with regard to jobs, education, health care etc. and not on their size?

Many societies, including our own, do protect a number of vulnerable groups from bias, mainly through various kinds of human rights legislation, on the basis of such grounds as race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation and disability. However, in most jurisdictions, there is no specific protection for obesity.

Enter the Court of Justice of the European Union. It ruled in December that obese people can be considered disabled and, therefore, protected under specific circumstances. The case came from a Danish court that wanted guidance over a complaint of unfair dismissal brought by a 352-pound employee whose job was caring for children. He had succeeded in losing weight but then had regained it. He contended that his obesity was one of the reasons he lost his job. He, therefore, alleged unlawful discrimination.

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