Archive for the ‘Weight Discrimination’ Category

I have blogged on many occasions about the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. This statute and the amendments to it prevent an employer from discriminating against an employee due to an actual or perceived disability. This act not only includes termination or demotions, but also requires that an employer provide accommodations to those with qualified disabilities. For many years, the scope of this act was severely limited due to several rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, but due to recent amendents by Congress, the scope of this act has now been expanded to include many different kinds of disabilities.

It seems the most recent disability that will now be covered under the ADA is obesity. The EEOC has recently filed suit against Resources for Human Development (RHD), a national non-profit human services organization, claiming it fired a child-care worker because she was obese. The agency claims the firing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The case involves Lisa Harrison, who worked with young children of mothers undergoing treatment for addiction in an RHD-run facility in suburban New Orleans.

The EEOC alleges that Harrison was fired because RHD perceived Harrison as being substantially limited in a number of major life activities, including walking, because of her weight, the EEOC claims. But the agency says Harrison was able to perform all of the essential functions of her position. Before the EEOC filed suit, Harrison died. Her private interests will be represented in the lawsuit by her estate.

Up to this point, many courts have ruled that obesity does not fall into the category of disability under the ADA.
But with the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, the definition of disability was substantially widened.

The lawsuit is EEOC v. Resources for Human Development, U.S. Dist. Crt., E.D. LA, No. 2:10-cv-03322.

If you believe you have been the victim of workplace discrimination due to obesity or the perception that you are obese, you should contact an employment lawyer to discuss your possible legal options.

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There has an increase in weight discrimination charges under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and I think potentially there could be claims for weight discrimination under GINA which pertains to genetic discrimination (take a look at my post several weeks ago on that law). Frankly, I think that people with severe obesity problems would have a good chance of claiming this type of discrimination. But now a 132 pound Hooters waitress in Michigan, Cassie Smith, has claimed weight discrimination.

Hooters had just given Smith a glowing, two year review.

“I had excellence in… dealing with customer complaints and customer satisfaction,” she said.

However, her bosses and two women on a conference call from the company’s headquarters in Atlanta changed their tune when it came to her uniform evaluation.

“We have that your shorts and shirt size could use some improvement,” said Smith.

Cassie, who is almost five foot, eight inches tall and weighs 132 pounds, claims she sat there while she was told that if she wanted to keep her job, she needed to drop some weight.

“These women proceeded to explain to me that I had 30 days and they would give me a free gym membership, and if I didn’t improve within those 30 days I would be separated from the company,” she said. “If I improved a little bit I would get 30 more days, and if I improved completely they would leave me alone.”

Cassie does not have a problem squeezing into her skimpy uniform, which is an extra small tank top and shorts. In fact, she says when she started this job two years ago, she weighed about ten pounds heavier than she does now.

For Cassie, the damage has already by done. She feels she is a victim of weight discrimination by a corporation with unrealistic expectations.

“I don’t want other girls to have to go through this. I don’t want anyone to have to go through this,” she said. “If I could’ve gone back and not worked there for two years to take back that feeling, I would do it.”

Hooters argues that this was not weight discrimination because it is similar to the standards used by the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders or the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. In other words, Hooters is claiming that they have a legitimate business reason for this policy. I guess it remains to be seen whether their policy will hold up with the courts.

What do you all think?

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