Complaint Claims Employee is Worth the Weight

Employers who terminate obese employees may find themselves in court.

One Arkansas-based employer went on a reducing plan of sorts by terminating one of its employees for being overweight.

In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, plaintiff Joseph Whittaker claims that his former employer, America’s Car Mart, unlawfully terminated him for being obese.

The employer alleges that Whittaker’s obesity adversely affected his ability to perform the required duties of his role as a General Manager, but Whittaker argues that he was able to perform the essential functions of his position, with or without accommodation.

Whittaker filed his action under the auspices of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act.

The ADA defines a person with a disability as:

  • a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
  • a record of such an impairment; or
  • being regarded as having such an impairment

Whittaker’s case may be bolstered by the American Medical Association’s recognition of obesity as a disease and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) obesity-reduction initiatives.

America’s workforce is expanding – at least around the waistline. More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are clinically obese, and the trend toward larger and less mobile employees is growing.

The CDC defines an obese adult as someone with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. BMI scores tend to reveal the amount of fat in the body when compared to weight and height factors.

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Are You Obese?


Check out this handy BMI calculator.


Effects of Prolonged Obesity

The CDC identifies the following as health consequences of obesity:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Stroke
  • Liver and gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)

The current Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, claims the “epidemic of overweight and obesity threatens the historic progress we have made in increasing America’s quality and years of healthy life.”


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