Obesity can count as a disability, the European Court of Justice has ruled in the case of an overweight man who lost his job. The judgment said it could qualify if the obesity “hinders the full and effective participation of the person concerned in professional life.” Danish childminder Karsten Kaltoft, who weighs 352 pounds, pursued the case after his local council sacked him in November 2010. The court admitted there was no specific law on discriminating because of obesity. However, it decided it could be classed as a disability if it involves “long-term physical, mental or psychological impairments.”
It is right that the EU has moved forward with enshrining this into, however, employers must continue to, or start, providing appropriate support to staff with obesity issues at any level.
Employment lawyer Vanessa Di Cuffa
EU employment laws make it illegal to discriminate on disability, as well as factors such as religion, belief, age or sexual orientation. Authorities in the Danish town of Billund admit mentioning Mr. Kaltoft’s weight during a meeting but deny it played a part in his dismissal. They say he was let go because there were fewer children to look after. The case now goes back to judges in Denmark to look again and decide whether Mr. Kaltoft is indeed obese enough to qualify as disabled. If it agrees, the childminder is set to get a compensation pay-out. The court’s decisions are binding in all EU countries. Employers may have to make special provisions, for example bigger desks or wider seats.