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Employers should take note of Texas obesity discrimination case

Texas businesses need to navigate a difficult line in providing products and services, making a profit, dealing with logistical issues and functioning every day. This can be complicated by its dealings with employees. Specifically, given the number of legal claims alleging discrimination that are cropping up on a regular basis, employers need to be aware.

Part of that is paying attention to cases that are in the news. One specific case involved alleged obesity discrimination in progress before the Texas Supreme Court. If it is found in favor of the plaintiff, it adds another layer to the protections workers are given.

Obese people might be protected against discrimination in Texas

In the case, obesity could soon be covered in Texas with people categorized as obese shielded from adverse employment actions. A medical resident who was in her first year at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center said she was dismissed because she is obese.

She claims that her classification as obese leaves her entitled to employment protections. The woman says that the Americans with Disabilities Act should protect her from discrimination due to her weight.

There is disagreement as to whether people who are classified as obese should be viewed as disabled. Groups advocating for the rights of overweight people say that the law should be separate from them being disabled while still giving them protections against workplace discrimination.

The claimant says she was dismissed from her job at the school’s Health Sciences Center in 2016 after supervisors asserted that she could not handle all aspects of the job. She needed to take frequent breaks and was sweating heavily while caring for a patient.

According to her, she is suffering from a medical issue—obesity. With that, it should be viewed as a disability under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. The case had advanced with the state Court of Appeals agreeing with her. Other states have had similar decisions go in favor of plaintiffs. There are disagreements as to how obesity should be categorized with some courts saying it is an impairment only if it stems from a medical condition.

Employers must be vigilant about potential changes to discrimination laws

This could have a major impact on employers in the Lone Star state and how they decide on employees. If obesity is deemed a disability, there could be more lawsuits filed by those who say their weight sparked discriminatory behavior.

To be fully prepared and address these challenges as they come up, employers should have extensive legal guidance. This can assess their situation, help them create policies and be protected against employment law claims that can severely harm their business in myriad ways.