Prepare for the Impact of Obesity in the Workplace

July 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm 1 comment

With American waistlines increasing, employers must consider the implications of a workforce that is larger and potentially suffering the consequences of carrying extra weight, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and joint problems.

A recent blog post by Robin Shea of Constangy Brooks & Smith LLP explains why obesity likely is considered a disability. She says it impairs life activities, and many obese people suffer side effects from their obesity that are considered disabilities. In other cases, medications for conditions that are considered disabilities cause the weight gain.

In addition, once obesity is considered a disability, it doesn’t matter whether an employee is obese because of a medical condition or from lack of exercise and poor diet. That means it’s important to be prepared for claims of disability from employees who are obese — their BMI is 30 or more.

Another question that arises is whether an employee could claim that the requirements of a job contribute to obesity. For example, an employee who takes on additional hours of work sitting at a desk to perform work previously done by a laid-off worker may claim that the job is actually making him or her fat.

As more claims arise and court cases are decided, answers to these questions will become clear. But one thing is for sure: Employers need to prepare themselves to manage employees who weigh more and the illnesses associated with obesity.

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Entry filed under: Healthcare, HR Management, Wellness. Tags: , .

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