Can I Be Fired for Being Overweight?
Our lawyers hear many stories of people encountering problems at work due to matters over which they have no control. For example, oftentimes, people have no control over their weight. When employers make decisions that have to do with applicants or current employees, they must only really consider two things: the applicant’s/employee’s qualifications and their ability to file perform the essential job functions. So, for example, a disabled office worker that does not require the use of their legs in order to input data into office software may not be discriminated against if they can perform the essential job functions.
Unfortunately, some employers do not always consider an employee’s ability to perform the job function and qualifications. They act on antiquated biases and prejudices which may negatively affect the employee’s employment status. This is called discrimination and is against the law. It is unlawful for employers to base employment decisions solely on qualities like race, sex, religion, color, country of origin, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, and even disability. There are specific federal laws which protect an employee’s rights. Being obese, however, is not protected under any federal law; obesity is a gray area which may or may not give your employer to the right to terminate your employment. Being overweight may qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, if it can be proved that your being overweight causes a true handicap.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against for being overweight and believe that your employer violated your rights, you may have the right to sue your employer and collect damages to which you may rightly be entitled. Our Los Angeles lawyers are here to ensure that justice is served if your employers infringed upon your rights.
Our attorneys help people like you every single day when it comes to unjust actions by their employers. Our main offices are in Los Angeles and we help people across the entire state of people. If after reading this article you have any questions, please feel free to call or email us.
Our employment attorneys help answer tough questions regarding overweight discrimination. Examples of such questions include:
- Can I be fired for being overweight?
- Is it wrongful termination if my employer fired me for being fat?
- I was let go because of weight issues. Is this wrongful termination?
- My boss fired me for being obese. Can he legally do that? Can I sue?
- What are the laws regarding weight discrimination in the workplace?
- Who is the best weight discrimination attorney?
Is Obesity Considered a Disability?
The laws which protect against employer disability discrimination are inside of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which does not allow employers to discriminate against an employee’s disability. This anti-discrimination law means that employers cannot make employment-based decisions because of that employee’s disability. Employers cannot terminate an employee, they can perform the essential job functions of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation.
Many people who are overweight are negatively affected in their everyday lives and may be limited in their movements and access to smaller spaces like tight hallways or smaller bathrooms. Does that mean that being overweight is considered a disability under the ADA? Well, the answer is not so simple. Simply being overweight is not enough to classify you as a person with a protected disability and so your employer may terminate your employment at any time – especially if your work suffers because of your obesity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency which enforces any federal laws meant to protect employees from unfair treatment.
At the state level, in California, the employment office is the Department of Fair & Equal Housing (DFEH). Under this law, as well, being overweight is not considered a disability and does not offer protections. There are some exceptions to this, however, and it is dependent on how overweight the person is and how they came to be obese.
There are a couple of ways in which a person could be overweight and also be protected under the ADA: “An individual who asserts a violation on the basis of his or her weight must adduce evidence of a physiological, systemic basis for the condition.” This means that the reason for the person’s obesity must be out of their control – like a genetic disease or something around those boundaries. For example, if an employee has a glandular problem and it causes them to gain weight uncontrollably, an employer cannot terminate the employer because the glandular problem may be protected under the ADA.
As stated, being overweight is not enough to be considered a disability on its own. But being morbidly obese, could indeed be covered by the ADA, even if there is no physiological cause. Furthermore, the EEOC considers morbid obesity as an impairment regardless of whether there is a genetic disease or not. “Severe obesity,” as defined by the EEOC is defined as being 100% over the normal weight of someone for their dimensions – like age and height.
Your employer has to focus on your ability to perform the essential job functions of your occupation and, if your obesity is protected under the ADA or DFEH, cannot take action if you request reasonable accommodation. If your obesity is covered by the state and federal laws, you have the right to request reasonable accommodation. For example, if the office needs to be a little bit more mobile-friendly, as in making the halls and walkways a little wider to accommodate your disability, your employer must comply with your request. Not doing so is a violation of the ADA and can subject your employer to a lawsuit.
File a Lawsuit Against Your Employer for Obesity Discrimination or Wrongful Termination
If you believe that your employer has violated any state or federal laws regarding your potential disability of being obese, you may have the grounds to file a lawsuit against your employer. But before you hand a lawsuit over to your employer, there are a few steps you have to do first in order for your lawsuit to be considered valid under the eye of the law.
You must first file a charge with a government employment agency at either the state or federal level. The EEOC is the government agency the enforces the ADA and ensures that employers treat their employees with the respect they deserve. Under the EEOC, you have 180 calendar days from the day you first received your discrimination days to submit your discrimination charge. If the discrimination is ongoing, meaning that it hasn’t stopped since you’ve brought it up with your employer, then you have 180 calendar days from the last day you received your discrimination. This deadline can be extended if you the state in which you live also protects the same kind of discrimination. So it all depends on your type of obesity and how you were treated. If you have a genetic condition which makes you overweight, the deadline to file your disability discrimination charge extends to 300 calendar days. Likewise, if you are morbidly or severely obese, your deadline is 300 days. For more information regarding these deadlines, please contact our Los Angeles attorneys who will be able to provide you with more information.
After the agency investigates your claim and decides whether or not your employer may have discriminated against you, you can then request a “right-to-sue” letter. Time is of the essence with this letter, and it is recommended that you only request it when you are ready to take your employer to court as you only have 90 days to act from the day you receive the letter.
The California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group is here to help make sure that your employer does not get away with any unjust actions towards you. If you believe that your rights have been violated, don’t hesitate to give us a call and schedule an in-person consultation. We offer a free consultation and the zero-fee guarantee.
Free consultation means that you can sit down with one of one of our many qualified attorneys and explain your case to them. They will give you their initial thoughts and explain whether or not you have a case. There is no financial obligation on your part if you decide to participate in the free consultation. You can either hire our services, or walk – the choice is yours. We are in Los Angeles but we take cases from the entire state of California, so no matter where you are located, you can call us to receive your free case review.
Zero Fee Guarantee
Zero-fee guarantee is our promise to you that we will use every available resource to help you win your case. If we are unable to win and prove our discrimination case, you will not pay for our services. If we do win, we will only collect a small fee on the amount collected. This removes all of the financial risk from you, and bestows it upon us. There is no reason not to pick up the phone and call!