Following a judgement from the Court of Justice of the European Communities in a recent case, UK law states that obesity is not a protected characteristic. This means that it cannot be regarded as a ground for discrimination; except in cases where obesity is a disability.
Obese or disabled?
The issue is whether someone is ‘just obese’ or is actually physically or medically impaired. In addition, they would have to be impaired on a long-term basis, so something such as temporary obesity due to pregnancy definitely would not count.
To quote the judgement from the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Fag Og Arbejde v Kommunernes Landsforening from 18 December 2014:
“…the obesity of a worker constitutes a “disability” within the meaning of that directive where it entails a limitation resulting in particular from long term physical, mental or psychological impairment which in interaction with various barriers may hinder the full and effective participation of the person concerned in professional life on an equal basis with other workers.”
What obesity mean for the workplace?
- If a colleague refers to you by using a derogatory obesity related term, would you have a case for discrimination?
- Do you have a right to a larger chair, workstation or vehicle if you are obese?
The answer to both of these questions is no, unless there are other impairments which together constitute a disability. Your employer is not obligated to give you any extra support for being obese and by not offering extra support, they will not be classed as discriminating against you.
Questions about obesity and discrimination
If you have any questions about obesity or discrimination in relation to employment, speak to an expert employment lawyer, based at our Leicester head office. We have three main offices across Leicestershire so feel free to phone or pop in and talk to our solicitors at your local office.
Leicester 0116 254 8871
Hinckley 01455 639 900
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