Obesity: a disease

Remember your obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act

This past summer, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially designated obesity as a disease. This announcement may have significant legal consequences for employers because obesity now may be considered a disability for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), particularly in light of the 2008 ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), which greatly broadened the coverage under the statute and promoted a less restrictive interpretation of the disability definition.

If obesity is a disability, you will be required to provide reasonable accommodations to obese individuals to assist them with performing their essential job functions.


The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against a "qualified" individual with a disability because of that disability with regard to various aspects of employment. To establish a discrimination case under the ADA, a plaintiff must show he or she is disabled; is a qualified individual; and was subjected to unlawful discrimination (or an adverse employment action) because of the disability.