A few weeks ago we discussed a Texas employer hiring new employees based upon their Body Mass Index. The dangers of considering weight in employment decisions were recently exemplified in a press release from the EEOC.
In that release, it was announced that a treatment facility for chemically dependent women and children was paying $125,000 to settle a disability discrimination suit filed in September 2010 by the EEOC. The suit alleged that the employer violated the ADA because it fired a former employee because of her disability, severe obesity, even though she was able to perform the essential functions of her job. Unfortunately, the employee died prior to the suit being filed. The EEOC’s take on the settlement:
All people with a disability who are qualified for their position are protected from unlawful discrimination,” said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. “Severe obesity is no exception. It is important for employers to realize that stereotypes, myths, and biases about that condition should not be the basis of employment decisions.
Courts have previously concluded that severe obesity may qualify as a disability regardless of whether it is caused by a physiological disorder. Hiring or firing policies based on weight may be actionable. Employers need to tread lightly if they are going to consider weight in a hiring/firing decision.(H/T disability law.blogspot.com)