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EU Court of Justice rules that obesity can be a disability

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The European Union Court of Justice has ruled that obesity can amount to a disability under an EU directive that establishes a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, according to an opinion cited by various news media. The judgment of the court stems from a request for a preliminary ruling that was made in proceedings between workers’ union Fag og Arbejde (FOA) (acting on behalf of a “childminder”) and the Kommunernes Landsforening (KL) (national association of Danish municipalities), concerning the lawfulness of the childminder’s  dismissal after 15 years of employment, allegedly on the basis of his obesity.

Interpreting Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000, the Court of Justice ruled that “the obesity of a worker constitutes a ‘disability’ within the meaning of that directive where it entails a limitation resulting in particular from long-term physical, mental or psychological impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder the full and effective participation of the person concerned in professional life on an equal basis with other workers.” In the main proceedings, the national court must determine whether those conditions are met.