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Question: Is obesity a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
Answer: It might be. As is often the case, it depends on the situation. Some courts have said yes, while others have said no.
There’s no list of conditions that qualify as disabilities under the act. Instead, a person has a disability if that person: Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, Has a record of such an impairment, or Is regarded as having an impairment.
If a person’s obesity is the result of an underlying condition or physiological disorder, it would likely be considered a disability under the ADA.
If an employee’s obesity qualifies as a protected physical impairment, the employer should turn to the company’s reasonable accommodation process to address situations that arise.
Obesity can be a sensitive topic. If an employee brings up the subject, talk about the request and consider what can be done to help overcome limitations to performing the job.