Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Can Employers Ban Obese Employees?

Citizens Medical Center, a health-care facility in southeastern Texas, is refusing to hire any person who has a body mass index over 35, which means that in order to work at the hospital, a 5'5" applicant can weigh no more than 210 pounds. Officials say the measure is meant to promote healthy living, so that employees can set an example for patients. The rule is legal in Texas.

The law is different in Rhode Island.  In November 1993, the First Circuit, in Cook v. Rhode Island, Department of Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals, became the first United States Court of Appeals to acknowledge morbid obesity as a disability under federal disability law.' The First Circuit reasoned that conditions such as obesity that are arguably voluntary or mutable are not preempted per se from the protection of federal disability law.'  Additionally, the court recognized that the negative stereotypes that American society associates with the obese are evidence that society perceives obesity as a disability."

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