Employment Law Report

EEOC: Obesity is a Disability

By Kim Koratsky

According to a press release from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it has filed suit in New Orleans, LA, against Resources for Human Development, Inc. (RHD), for firing an employee (Lisa Harrison) because of her obesity, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  According to the EEOC’s suit, Harrison began working for RHD in 1999, counseling mothers of children undergoing treatment for addiction.  The EEOC alleges that, as a result of her obesity, Harrison was perceived as being substantially limited in a number of major life activities, including walking.  The suit stems from a Charge filed by Harrison in which she claimed that RHD fired her because of her disability.  Before the suit was filed, Harrison died and her interests will be represented by her estate.

In a statement, Keith Hill, field director of the EEOC’s New Orleans office said, “this is a classic case of disability bias, based on myths and stereotypes.”  A non-profit organization, RHD is based on Pennsylvania, has facilities in 14 states, and more than 4,000 employees.