Have you heard the news that the AMA has declared obesity a disease?

In light of this new determination which was issued in June, 2013, we caution employers to be cautious as it is possible that this could trigger ADA protections should an employee’s obesity limit the employee’s ability to perform a major life activity. Whether it will be do so, it not entirely certain at this time as there is contradictory case law on the issue and as the AMA determination is quite recent. There was a decision from Louisiana, pre-dating the AMA’s determination, which held that it is possible for morbid obesity to constitute a disability under the ADA when it affects an individual’s ability to perform one or more major life activities.

On the other hand, there is a more recent decision from West Virginia finding that an employee was not disabled as the employee’s obesity did not limit a major life activity. Rather, the employee had admitted that he was not limited in performing regular activities. Despite this contradiction, I would suggest that employers err on the side of caution and engage in the ADA process with any employees who request a reasonable accommodation due to morbid obesity.