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In Employment Situations Extra Pounds Can Equal Disability

  • Published: 2013-08-19 : Author: McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC : Contact:
  • Synopsis: Reclassification by the AMA affect employment practices by making it easier for employees to claim they suffer from disabilities and make it harder for employers to oppose claims for impairment.

Main Document

"The AMA, by changing the classification, hopes to draw more attention - and funds - to the battle against obesity."

The American Medical Association recently changed the classification of obesity from a "condition" to a disease, opening the door to claims by employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This summer, the American Medical Association (AMA) changed the classification for obesity from a condition to a disease, a decision that will have far-reaching effects for employers and businesses across the nation. Employment law and human resource professionals are monitoring how the reclassification will affect work and hiring situations.

An overweight nation

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a third of Americans are obese - weighing as little as 30 pounds more than the recommended weight based on their age, gender and height - and another third are classified as overweight. The AMA, by changing the classification, hopes to draw more attention - and funds - to the battle against obesity.

CDC statistics show that Kentucky has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, and, while childhood obesity rates are reportedly falling across the nation, Kentucky is one of three states whose rates are not dropping. Fortunately, the U.S. Office of Rural Health Policy recently announced that federal funding is funneling into the Delta states to address chronic diseases - including obesity.

Reclassification and disability laws

The reclassification by the AMA does not mean a change to discrimination laws but it may affect Kentucky employment practices by making it easier for employees to claim they suffer from disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It will also make it harder for employers to oppose claims for impairment, no matter what an employee's level of obesity.

Similar to other claims of discrimination based on disease, the following situations may arise on a more frequent basis:

This issue is not new although some recent decisions have come down on the side of the business owners. According to the Huffington Post, a popular yoga clothing store blatantly shuns plus-sized shoppers without repercussions, and a casino recently won the right to dictate the weight gain of its cocktail servers. However, the AMA's decision raises the likelihood of legal claims in the future.

Consult an employment law attorney

If you are a business owner, manager or someone who handles personnel matters in Kentucky, consult an experienced business and corporate lawyer who is knowledgeable about employment law matters.

Article provided by McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC - Visit us at

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