Obesity and malnutrition are two extremes of improper or inadequate nutrition, and both these conditions are almost equally challenging from the global health perspective. While obesity is more predominant in developed countries, developing countries are facing dual burden of nutrition-related conditions.

A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice said obesity can be a disability, if it hinders effective participation in professional life. The ruling came in the case of a Danish child-minder, Karsten Kaltoft, who alleged he was unfairly fired for being obese.

The ruling could have serious implications for employers, especially when discrimination on the grounds of disability is illegal in the EU. A new legislation guiding equality in the workplace may reinforce employers to consider any overweight employee with same perks for those with other disabilities.

Now there has to be a debate about obesity being ruled out to be a disability, a condition that limits one’s ability to work effectively. While disabled people don’t choose to be disabled, how one could determine whether obesity is a natural occurrence out of hormonal or metabolic or some other disturbances or is a result of excessive diet.

Rohan Banerjee of The Telegraph, U.K., believes that each case shall be considered individually, to ensure people with genuine problems don’t get punish. For some, it could be a case of addiction as they eat and eat again. Even such a behavior could be out of some stress, depression or other health condition. And in some case, it may be that people just don’t bother about their body weight and don’t want to exercise any self-control. Hence, individual consideration deems necessary.

The ruling is new, and will surely attract renewed debate – corporate-sponsored as well as community-sponsored. While employers may challenge the ruling, the advocates of fair employment would require coming up with a strict but fair assessment process to decide who is genuinely disabled.

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