Obesity and Settlement Agreements

Settlement agreements are often used in cases of disability discrimination

Is obesity now classed as a disability?

We are constantly being reminded about how Britain is getting fatter. There is no doubt that obesity is increasing the strain on the NHS and a worrying level of children are now dangerously overweight. We must also consider the impact that obesity can have in the workplace.

The Tribunal case of Walker v Sita Information Networking Computing Limited considered the issue of obesity in relation to disability discrimination. The question was whether, when considering if a person is disabled or not, the focus should be on a person’s symptoms or the effect those symptoms have.

The Tribunal decided that the Claimant, who weighed over 21 stone, was not ‘disabled’ under the discrimination legislation as there were no physical or mental causes of the symptoms that the Claimant suffered from besides the obesity itself.

At appeal level the Employment Appeals Tribunal claimed that the correct way to deal with this matter was firstly to ask whether there was an impairment and secondly, whether that impairment was physical or mental.

There is no need for a claimant to establish a medically diagnosed cause for their impairment. It is the effect of an impairment that must be considered and not its cause. The Tribunal, whilst not accepting that obesity is a disability in its own right, did state that being obese might make it more likely that someone is disabled. Disability Discrimination is a complex area of law and anybody who is worried about discrimination when they have been offered a settlement agreement should seek full advice

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