Monday

22nd Apr 2019

Obesity could qualify as disability, says EU court

  • The ruling could have far-reaching implications for employers (Photo: Steve Baker)

Obesity may be considered a disability if it affects how a person does their job and so could fall under EU rules banning discrimination in the workplace, the EU's top court said Thursday (17 July) in an opinion set to be closely studied by employers.

"Morbid obesity may come within the meaning of ‘disability’ if it is of such a degree as to hinder full participation in professional life on an equal footing with other employees,” said advocate general Niilo Jaaskinen.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The case arrived at the European Court of Justice after Karsten Kaltoft, a child-minder Denmark, claimed he unfairly lost his job because of his weight.

Kaltoft had been working for a local municipality for 15 years looking after children in his own home when his contract was not renewed in 2010.

He said this was due to his size – something denied by his employers – as he is officially classified as obese, and claimed damages for discrimination.

The Danish court asked its EU counterpart to decide whether obesity could be included as a reason for unlawful discrimination by employers.

Jaaskinen said "there is no general, stand-alone prohibition on discrimination on grounds of obesity in EU law."

But he noted that obesity could fall under the scope of the EU employment law that bans discrimination on the grounds of disability in the workplace.

The opinion was clear that only “extreme, severe, or morbid obesity” could eventually be classified as a disability.

Richie Alder, employment partner at law firm Trowers & Hamlins in the UK, said the ruling appeared to send a "contradictory messsage" employers.

He noted that while obesity may not automatically lead to employees having to make "reasonable adjustments" to the workplace to accommodate them, a person with morbid or severe obesity could be classifed as having a disability so "reasonable adjustments may need to be made".

The EU court still has to give a final ruling on the matter, though it follows the Advocate General’s opinion in the majority of cases.

The final decision on Kaltoft’s case will be taken by the court in Denmark.

Brussels takes soft line on 'frightening' obesity problem

Gentle political pressure on food multinationals and EU states is Brussels' answer to Europe's bulging obesity problem until 2010, with consumer groups saying the Barroso commission is passing the buck to its successor.

Focus

Industry urged to tackle obesity as Europeans get fatter

People in Luxembourg, Denmark and Ireland are gaining weight at the fastest rate in the EU, according to a new survey. Meanwhile, some companies have committed to voluntary measures to tackle obesity, with 14 million overweight children in the union.

Focus

Warning over Europe's sugar-guzzling habits

Europeans get through a huge amount of sugary drinks, causing serious risks to their health, a study backed by anti-obesity campaigners suggests. But southern Europe has seen a marked decline in consumption.

EU parliament backs whistleblower law

MEPs backed an EU law to protect whistleblowers from retaliation in both the public and private sectors. EU states will have two years to transpose the directive.

EU commission to map gender recognition

The European Commission will start looking at how EU states determine genders - as part of an effort to make it easier for people to determine their own identities.

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us