Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Obesity to Become a "Disability" Under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

With the American Medical Association (AMA) voting last month to classify obesity as a 'disease,' many lawyers believe this means obesity will soon qualify as a "disability" for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  From Michele Bowman's article on the topic:

“[T]he AMA [has] adopted policy that recognizes obesity as a disease requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention,” according to a news release about the AMA’s annual meeting, where the vote took place." ...  “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” said AMA board member Patrice Harris, M.D."

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was enacted in 2009 to expand the definition of "disability" in light of many court decisions where plaintiffs failed on this prong but recent studies and statistics show the ADAAA hasn't quite had that effect.  Perhaps the AMA could be persuasive in qualifying obesity as a disability.

The EEOC has already been treating “severe obesity” – defined as having a BMI of 40 or above, or a BMI of 35 in addition to an underlying condition like diabetes – as covered under the ADA

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