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EU Court: Extreme Obesity Qualifies as a Disability at Work

Update Date: Jul 17, 2014 03:01 PM EDT

The Court of Justice of the European Union might consider extreme obesity a work disability. According to the court's adviser, when obesity reaches a certain point where it prevents the employee from being able to work, the disease can then be considered a disability.

"If obesity has reached such a degree that it plainly hinders participation in professional life, then this can be a disability," Niilo Jaaskinen, the advocate general, who advises the court in Luxembourg, stated according to Reuters.

The EU court was asked to decide whether or not the EU law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of obesity and if obesity can be classified as a disability due to a recent case. In the case, Karsten Kaltoft argued that he was wrongfully fired. Kaltoft was working as a chidlminder, who is someone that watches children, for 15 years. When his contract was ended, Kaltoft stated that the city authorities fired him due to his weight. The municipal authorities have denied this claim.

"It is the first time ever that a case has been brought at EU level regarding protection due to clinical obesity. This fact alone renders the case of general public importance," said Jacob Sand, attorney and partner at the Danish law firm Gorrissen Federspiel reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Jaaskinen stated that the EU law does not forbid discrimination specifically based on obesity. However, the advocate general concluded that if obesity is extreme, which is defined as having a body mass index of more than 40, it could be considered a disability.

Kaltoft's case will be decided over the next few months. The court typically follows the advice of the advocates general.

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