Disability Rights for Obese Dutch Nanny
(CN) - Morbid obesity is a protected class, an adviser to Europe's highest court ruled Thursday, siding with a Danish worker seeking disability status after his weight allegedly cost him a job.
Karsten Kaltloft claimed he was fired Nov. 22, 2010, after working for the Municipality of Billund in Denmark as a "child-minder" for 15 years because he weighed 352 pounds.
Throughout his employment, Katloft was fat, with a body-mass index of 54, and is therefore considered obese by the World Health Organization.
Arguing that his morbid obesity is a "chronic and durable illness," Katloft pointed out that obesity is considered a disability under American law.
The municipality claimed that it fired him because of a reduction in workload, but Katloft claimed that he was fired because of his weight.
He sued in a Danish District Court, and the Retten I Kolding Court in Denmark asked the Court of Justice last year to clarify whether the antidiscrimination books in the EU cover obesity.
Jaaskinen suggested Thursday that obesity should be included as a protected class.
"I am ... of the opinion that, in cases where the condition of obesity has reached a degree that it, in interaction with attitudinal and environmental barriers, as mentioned in the [United Nations] Convention, plainly hinders full participation in professional life on an equal footing with other employees due to the physical and/or psychological limitations that it entails, then it can be considered to be a disability," he wrote.
It doesn't matter if the person's obesity is because of excessive "energy intake," Jaaskinen added, stating that it is "irrelevant" if a person's obesity is "self-inflicted" because a person eats too many calories but exercises too little, if it's a psychological or medical problem, or if it's a side-effect from certain medications.
"Otherwise, physical disabilities resulting from conscious and negligent risk-taking in traffic or in sports, for example, would be excluded from 'disability'" under the law, he wrote.
The advocate general's opinion isn't binding on the European Court of Justice, which now begins deliberations on Katloft's case.