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Morbidly obese workers are protected under laws for the disabled

Thanks to a number of federal and state laws, many Los Angeles employees are protected from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. What workers and employers need to understand, though, is that current anti-discrimination laws in California do not make other forms of discrimination and harassment acceptable in the workplace.

Current laws were created because workers came forward to fight for a better workplace and to protect their rights. And the protection of workers continues to change in our country for the better as more victims of discrimination and harassment come forward.

One type of discrimination that has affected many workers over the years, obesity discrimination, has recently been included in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers can no longer get away with denying someone a job because of one's weight or harassing someone in the workplace because he or she is obese.

The ADA was amended by Congress to include morbid obesity as a disability last year. A worker is considered to be morbidly obese if his or her weight exceeds the healthy weight range for one's height by 100 percent. Earlier this year, workers who claimed that they were mistreated in the workplace as a result of their weight were able to reach favorable settlements with their employers after taking legal action to protect their rights as employees. Now, some employee rights advocates are even suggesting that weight be made a protected class like race and gender.

One woman who struggled with weight her entire life said she was a school counselor who was told she needed to lose weight in order to keep her job in the 90s. Her supervisor claimed her weight suggested that she could not control her life. Although the woman ended up losing 100 pounds within six months after the chat, her boss's opinion remained the same and she was forced to quit her job.

Unfortunately, the woman's situation occurred before new protections were added under the ADA, but workers facing the same issue now will be able to have their rights protected. With the nation's obesity rate at nearly 36 percent, many workers may now be able to benefit from the changes.

Source: Huffington Post, "Obesity discrimination on the job provokes dispute over best remedy," Oct. 4, 2012

  • Our firm provides counsel to workers who have been discriminated against or harassed in the workplace because of a disability. If you would like to learn more about employees' rights and our practice, please visit our Long Beach disability discrimination lawyers page.

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