The newest ground for “discrimination”: obesity

The Court of Justice of the EU has today issued a judgment according which obesity can be qualified as a “disability”, and therefore as a prohibited “ground of discrimination” under Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.

Obesity is a condition that “falls within the concept of disability where, under particular conditions, it hinders the full and effective participation of the person concerned in professional life on an equal basis with other workers,” the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled today.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.

People with a BMI of more than 25 are classified as overweight and a BMI of more than 30 is obese. As many as 30 percent of adults in Europe are obese, the WHO says.

Today’s decision concerns the case of Karsten Kaltoft, who sued the town of Billund, Denmark, his employer, after he was dismissed from his post in 2010. Kaltoft, whose weight was more than 160 kilograms at the time, had a high body mass index of 54, which classified him as obese. His public-sector employer denies that this was why he lost his job.

Kaltoft first took his case to a Danish court, which asked the EU tribunal to rule on whether obesity could be included as a reason for unlawful discrimination by employers. The Danish court will have to decide on his firing in line with today’s ruling.

The case is: C-354/13, FOA, acting on behalf of Karsten Kaltoft v. Billund Kommune