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Don’t consider weight in hiring; obesity may qualify as a disability

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

When weighing hiring decisions, make sure you don't consider the applicant's weight, unless it's clear that it would prevent the person from performing the job's essential functions.

Reason: Until recently, courts have been reluctant to see obesity as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But no more. As this ruling shows, more courts will take these claims seriously.

Recent case: Joseph Connor, who weighs 420 pounds, applied for a McDonald's cook position and received a verbal employment offer. Because Connor needed a custom-size uniform, the manager said he'd call when the uniform arrived. Despite Connor's repeated inquires over several months, the manager never called back. When Connor wasn't hired, he sued under the ADA.

McDonald's argued that Connor's obesity didn't deserve ADA protection, but the court disagreed and ordered the trial to go forward. The judges' reasoning: McDonald's perceived him as being too obese and morbid obesity could qualify as a disability. Crucial point: The ADA protects people from discrimination based on their disability or perceived disability. (Connor v. McDonald's Restaurant, Conn. Sup.Ct., 2003)

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