|Thompson & Knight Attorney Stephen Fink quoted in The National Law Journal article |
Legal Issues Involving Obesity and the ADA
|October 1, 2012 11:58 pm|
The National Law Journal:
Marta Fernandez got a call earlier this year from a client with a weight problem. Her client, a hotel and resort chain, was troubled about how to handle a request by an obese employee at one of its California properties. Required to walk the grounds as part of her job, the worker wanted to use one of the company's golf carts to get around.
The employee was asking for an accommodation for her disability - obesity. Fernandez, a partner in Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Mitchell, was quick to offer advice: Do it.
It might have been a more difficult call just one year ago for Fernandez, who practices employment law in Jeffer Mangels' Los Angeles office. But with the outcomes fresh in her mind of three federal cases indicating growing acceptance of obesity as a condition covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), it was a pretty easy decision.
Those cases, combined with obesity rates among the nation's workforce at an all-time high, portend additional claims from plaintiffs demanding accommodations for their condition - and more suits against employers that fail to provide them, according to Fernandez and other employment law practitioners.
The case, Feit v. BNSF Railway, involved a plaintiff who sued after the railroad company offered him a job as a conductor trainee, conditioned on his successful completion of a physical examination. The company allegedly refused to hire him because of his obesity.
Stephen Fink, an attorney at Thompson & Knight who represents BNSF in the Montana case, says that for employers, obesity is similar to the problems that smoking created during the 1970s and 1980s because of the associated health risks. "It's a social and political health issue of significant magnitude," he says.
© Copyright 2012. ALM Media Properties, LLC.
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