(c) 2018 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Obesity is a disability. Employers should start treating it that way.

Today's post is shared from Helen Leahey is a Welsh journalist and documentary filmmaker who works in education management.

Job interviews are an uncomfortable experience for most people. But for people like me who suffer from morbid obesity, they are especially grueling. It’s hard to impress someone when you’re the fat applicant. There’s the added challenge of sustaining an engaging conversation as a potential future employer walks you around the premises, a hike that leaves you winded. After that, you have to squeeze into a tiny chair and present your credentials, maintaining a charming demeanor as the blood circulation to the lower half of your body is cut off. I went through this process over and over again while I was searching for a job. I did land one eventually, as a manager in one of the world’s leading business schools. But my problems didn’t end there. Because of my handicap, co-workers had to take over tasks that I couldn’t manage – mainly those that involved climbing any number of stairs or walking more than 20 feet.

It is clear to me that morbid obesity — defined as having a body mass index above 40 — is often a disability, irrelevant of the cause. But in many legal systems, that’s still an unanswered question. Even as obesity rates have soared, U.S. and European courts have grappled with whether to classify it as a disability, which would obligate employers to provide necessary accommodations so obese employees can...
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