AMA’s Recognition of Obesity as a Disease May Trigger Increased Claims under Employment Practices Liability Coverage

more+
less-

In June, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a policy recognizing “obesity” as a “disease” requiring a range of medical intervention.  With “obesity” now recognized as a “disease” by the AMA, obese employees may be afforded greater protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADA).  Consequently, obesity-related employee claims may dramatically increase, thereby triggering increased claims for insurance under employment practices liability coverage.

There is no federal law that expressly prohibits obesity discrimination, but plaintiff employees have brought obesity-related discrimination claims under the ADA with varying degrees of success.  The ADA generally prohibits discrimination against employees with physical or mental disabilities.  Additionally, the ADA requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for their disabled employees to perform their duties as long as such an accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.  Federal courts have waivered on whether obesity is a recognized disability under the ADA.  Several courts have held that obesity is not a disability under the ADA.  Other courts have held that, to constitute an ADA impairment, an employee’s obesity must be the result of a physiological condition.  A few courts have held that severe obesity is a disability under the ADA even without proof of a physiological basis.

Although the AMA’s new policy is not legally binding, it may prompt more courts to recognize “obesity” as a disability under the ADA.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one-third of American adults are “obese.”  Consequently, the number of ADA claims brought by employees against their employers for obesity-related discrimination may increase dramatically.  Employers facing liability for these claims may seek insurance coverage under an employment practices liability (EPL) insurance policy.  An EPL policy generally affords coverage for claims brought by employees alleging wrongful employment acts, including discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, or sexual harassment subject to the terms and exclusions of the policy.  Accordingly, a standard form EPL policy may provide coverage for obesity-related claims of discrimination brought by employees.

 

Written by:

Published In:

ADA

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Sedgwick LLP | Attorney Advertising

Don't miss a thing! Build a custom news brief:

Read fresh new writing on compliance, cybersecurity, Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers, social media, hiring & firing, patent reform, the NLRB, Obamacare, the SEC…

…or whatever matters the most to you. Follow authors, firms, and topics on JD Supra.

Create your news brief now - it's free and easy »

All the intelligence you need, in one easy email:

Great! Your first step to building an email digest of JD Supra authors and topics. Log in with LinkedIn so we can start sending your digest...

Sign up for your custom alerts now, using LinkedIn ›

* With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name.
×
Loading...
×
×