In December 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on a case that could have considerable ramifications for employers in the UK.
A Danish man called Karsten Kaltoft had worked as a childminder for a local authority for 15 years before being dismissed. His employer claimed that a fall in the number of children requiring care was the reason for this dismissal. Mr Kaltoft, who weighed 25 stone, said he’d been sacked because he was overweight.
A discrimination case resulted and the Danish Courts asked the ECJ for guidance on whether obesity could be classed as a disability.
The subsequent ECJ ruling said that obesity could be considered a disability if it “hinders the full and effective participation of that person in professional life on an equal basis with other workers.”
This therefore isn’t really about whether obesity itself is a disability or if the “condition” is self-inflicted. Instead, the focus is on whether it adversely affects an employee’s performance at work. If it does, then that worker could be entitled to disability protection.