Obesity ruling – insight from Linklaters
In case you’re looking for reaction, or context, to the Advocate General’s opinion on the ECJ case of Karsten Kaltoft v Billund Kommune (on whether obesity can amount to a disability), which has been published this morning, here are some quotes from Nicola Rabson, Linklaters employment partner, who is also available for interview if needed:
The Advocate General’s opinion is set out here. It states that obesity can amount to a disability if it hinders participation in professional life and thus be protected from discrimination.
Nicola Rabson said:
“If the ECJ follows the Advocate General’s opinion, employers will have to make, and bear the costs of, all necessary reasonable adjustments to accommodate the special needs of severely obese employees.”
“However, many grey areas remain, including how employers will determine whether an employee is obese, whether such obesity is sufficiently severe to trigger protection, how to handle an employee who is ‘in denial’ and to what extent the individual can be expected to take self-help measures in the first place.”
“This decision shifts the burden of keeping those who are severely obese in the workforce to employers who must make adjustments to accommodate any special requirements arising from a person’s disability.”
“Obesity, particularly severe obesity, can be a sensitive subject, so employers will have to tread carefully and not make assumptions about the needs of an obese worker.”