The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all other places that are open to the general public. When it comes to employment, the ADA provides that employers covered by the statute may not discriminate against “qualified individuals” with a disability with respect to employment matters. The ADA defines such individuals as applicants or employees who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job. Thus, the most contested issue becomes the question of whether or not the employee has a disability, as that term is defined by the Act.
One type of claimed disability that is increasingly the subject of litigation is obesity. Although courts initially were reluctant to recognize obesity as a qualifying disability for purposes of the ADA protections, courts are increasingly willing to consider obesity as a disability giving plaintiffs status to raise ADA claims.