Can an employee be fired for gaining weight?

Can an employee be fired for gaining over 200 pounds after being with a company for 25+ years?

Posted  03-16-2011

Ann Kiernan replies:

Until now, most courts have routinely rejected general obesity as a “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and have required employees to show that they had an underlying medical condition that caused the excess weight. But in September, 2010, the EEOC brought a disability discrimination suit against an employer that allegedly fired a worker of obesity. Click here to read the EEOC press release.

According to the Equal Opportunity Commission, morbid obesity (i.e., weight that is 100% or more over what is considered normal) can be considered a disability if the employee can show that it substantially limits a major life activity, substantially limited a major life activity in the past, or is regarded as substantially limiting. While a person with morbid obesity may be unqualified for a particular job, it would violate the ADA to exclude someone whose morbid obesity is a disability from a job for which he or she is qualified.

You may want to consult with a local employment lawyer for an analysis of your situation.


Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.