A fat target for ADA lawsuits
Scratch fat jokes from the list of socially acceptable office banter. Now that the American Medical Association has officially classified obesity as a disease, rather than a condition, workplace discrimination against seriously overweight people — including fat jokes — is likely to become lawsuit fodder under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The AMA classification doesn’t automatically become federal policy under the disabilities act, but experts say it will give legal support to obesity discrimination claims.
It could also mean that employers will have to make special accommodations for obese employees, from extra-large sized office furniture to job assignments that recognize the limitations of a person’s weight.
No more snide comments about policemen and donuts, nor perhaps even physical requirements for police and firefighters if the rules make it more difficult for the obese to compete.
That old Chris Farley routine as a fat Chippendales’ dancer could soon become a legal reality.
Will an employer who offers financial incentives to workers who stay fit face discrimination claims?
We certainly recognize the societal problem that obesity is becoming. With the health problems it brings — diabetes, heart issues, joint and bone problems — it is costing the entire country billions of dollars a year.
We support efforts to offer incentives to people to exercise more and eat healthier. It may even be time to consider higher taxes for the worst forms of junk food to help pay for the additional health care costs obesity creates.
But those are efforts aimed at personal responsibility, methods of encouraging people to take better care of themselves.
The AMA classification does just the opposite. It diminishes personal responsibility for this “disease” of being grossly overweight. It normalizes obesity and suggests employers, public services and others must make greater effort to accommodate the victims of this disease, rather than encourage them to overcome obesity.