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In today’s society, obesity is recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association. While not always classified as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are situations where individuals deemed disabled under the ADA may have legal grounds to file a claim for weight discrimination against their employers.

This blog post aims to provide an overview of weight discrimination in the workplace, the criteria for filing a claim, and the importance of seeking legal assistance to protect your rights. Contact PLBH at (800) 435-7542 if you require a free legal consultation.

The ADA and Protected Classes

Under federal law, workplace discrimination is prohibited when it involves race, skin color, national origin, gender, disability, religion, or age. However, weight discrimination is not explicitly mentioned as a protected class. It’s crucial to note that some states, including California, offer additional protections, such as those against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Proving Weight Discrimination

To successfully prove a weight discrimination case, several key factors must be established. Firstly, you must demonstrate that your weight qualifies as a disability under the ADA, meaning it significantly limits or restricts a major life activity. Major life activities encompass various aspects, including hearing, lifting, seeing, speaking, walking, standing, breathing, performing manual tasks, self-care, thinking, learning, or working.

Additionally, you can be protected if your employer regards you as disabled or discriminates against you based on your history of obesity, even if you no longer meet the substantial limitation requirement.

Employer Coverage and Direct Evidence

It’s important to determine if your employer falls under the ADA’s coverage, which applies to companies with 15 or more employees. If your employer has fewer employees, check state or local ordinances that may provide alternative avenues for filing a claim.

To bolster your case, direct evidence of discrimination is crucial. This can include derogatory comments or nicknames related to your weight, termination, or denial of promotion based on your weight. Such evidence strengthens your argument and supports a claim of weight discrimination.

Differential Treatment and Harassment

Differential treatment is another aspect to consider when proving weight discrimination. If you notice that your boss consistently excludes you from business lunches while inviting other colleagues, it may indicate discriminatory treatment. Comparing how your obese colleagues are treated in similar situations can also reveal discriminatory practices.

Furthermore, weight discrimination cases often involve harassment. Mockery, exclusion, or demeaning behavior from supervisors or coworkers may constitute harassment. If you encounter such behavior, report it promptly to your company’s human resources department, allowing them an opportunity to address and rectify the situation.

Reasonable Accommodations and Legal Action

Employers have a responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, unless it poses an undue hardship. Examples of accommodations for weight-related concerns might include sturdier chairs or wider desks. Before taking legal action, it’s essential to afford your employer the opportunity to provide reasonable accommodations.

If you believe you’ve experienced weight discrimination, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced employment attorney promptly. An attorney can assess your claim, ensure compliance with filing deadlines, and guide you through the legal process to seek justice. Contact PLBH at (800) 435-7542 now for a free legal consultation.