Is Obesity a Disability?

In the Danish case of Kaltoft v Municipality of Billund (Case C-354/13), the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) decided that a worker with long-term obesity might be regarded as disabled though it was a matter for national courts (e.g. employment tribunals) to determine whether the conditions required for obesity to be a disability are met.

There is no express provision under EU law which prohibits discrimination on the ground of obesity; however, obesity could constitute a disability where it limits the worker’s participation in day-to-day life e.g. reduced mobility.

In this case, the morbidly obese child-minder claimed that he had been dismissed because of his obesity which amounted to unlawful discrimination. The ECJ was keen to point out that the focus should be on whether the condition hinders full and effective participation in working life. It would be for the Danish court to determine whether this employee’s obesity met the conditions necessary for it to amount to a disability.

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