You're Not Disabled. You Eat Junk.

<p>Addicted to deliciousness.</p>
 Photographer: Scott Barbour Collection: Getty Images News

The decision by Europe's highest court that obesity can be a disability will only make a bad problem worse. Too many people in rich countries are already overweight. Giving them legal grounds to feel righteous about their condition, regardless of its causes, will almost certainly expand their ranks.

The case brought to the European Court of Justice involved Danish child-minder Karsten Kaltoft, fired by the municipality of Billund in 2010 after 15 years of service. The town attributed the firing to redundancy, but Kaltoft, who is 5'8'' tall and weighs 352 pounds, claimed his employer got rid of him because he was overweight: his weight was mentioned in the conversations that preceded his dismissal. The court was asked to decide whether that would have violated a 14-year-old European Union directive banning discrimination against people with disabilities. 

The matter turned on whether obesity qualifies as a disability. It's not expressly described as such in any Danish or European statutes. But the Court ultimately sided with an opinion filed by Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen. He argued:

In cases where the condition of obesity has reached a degree that it, in interaction with attitudinal and environmental barriers, as mentioned in the UN Convention, plainly hinders full participation in professional life on an equal footing with other employees due to the physical and/or psychological limitations that it entails, then it can be considered to be a disability.

In other words, if one gets to be so overweight that it hampers one's work, the employer should find ways to accommodate the obese worker, rather than seek to replace him or her. That might mean buying her an extra large chair or even installing an elevator so she doesn't have to use the stairs to get to her workplace. It doesn't matter, Jaaskinen wrote, "whether the person concerned became obese due to simple excessive energy intake, in relation to energy expended, or whether it can be explained by reference to a psychological or metabolic problem, or as a side-effect of medication." Even if the disability is self-inflicted, Jaaskinen (and the Court) determined that discriminating on that basis shouldn't be permitted. 

Doesn't that, however, open a path toward classifying alcoholism and drug addiction as disabilities, too? After all, those are also diseases that tend to hinder a worker's "full participation in professional life." U.S. disability law protects recovered alcoholics and drug addicts who became disabled because of their substance abuse, but not people who are still drinking too much or taking drugs.

Lawyers for the municipality of Billund raised that matter at the European court hearings, but Jaaskinen dismissed it:

In my opinion this concern is misplaced. It is true that, in medical terms, alcoholism and addiction to psychotropic substances are diseases. This does not, however, mean that an employer would be required to tolerate an employee’s breach of his contractual obligations by reference to these diseases. For example, a dismissal because the employee comes to work intoxicated is not based on the disease of alcoholism or drug addiction as such, but is a breach of the employment contract which the employee could have avoided by abstaining from consuming alcohol or the substance in question. Any employer is entitled to expect such an employee to seek the medical treatment that is necessary for him to be able to properly perform his obligations under the contract of employment.

This approach creates an absurd situation for employers. They can, of course, require employees to refrain from substance abuse and to come to work sober, but they cannot reasonably be expected to stop workers from eating too much junk food.


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commented 2014-12-21 07:06:40 -0500 · Flag
A.A. writes:

The Therapeutic Virus of Victimology now spreads to the Fat Fuxs of the world. The decadence of the West and its “Progressive” ideology is truly stunning to witness.