Obesity can constitute a disability - ECJ

Posted: 19th December 2014

GoldfishThe European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that obesity can constitute a 'disability' within the meaning of EU Directive 2000/78/EC, which establishes a general framework for equal treatment in employment.

The ruling came in response to a question referred to the ECJ by the Danish District Court after an overweight childminder who in 2007 had a body mass index of 54 claimed that his dismissal from his employment with the local council resulted from unlawful discrimination on grounds of obesity.

The ECJ ruled that EU legislation does not prohibit discrimination on grounds of obesity per se. However, obesity can fall within the concept of disability within the meaning of the Directive in circumstances where a worker is prevented by 'long-term physical, mental of psychological impairments' from effective participation in the workplace on an equal basis with other workers.

In the ECJ's view, the reason for a worker's obesity is not in point, as making a distinction as to cause would run counter to the aim of the Directive.

In practical terms, employers with workers whose size has a disabling effect on a day-to-day basis on their ability to do their job must be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate their needs.