Obese but not Impaired, Ninth Circuit Rules

     (CN) — Too overweight to hire, but not enough to claim physical impairment. The Ninth Circuit reached this finding in upholding rejection of Human Rights Act violations.
     Eric Feit brought the case at hand after BNSF Railway rescinded a conditional employment offer to him. Feit had wanted to train to be a conductor, but BNSF said his extreme obesity, as measured by body-mass index, posed health and safety risks.
     Though the Montana Human Rights Commission sided with Feit and awarded him substantial damages, that finding disintegrated after a federal judge in Big Sky Country boiled the issue down to whether obesity qualifies as an “impairment” under Montana law.
     When the agency concluded that Feit’s weight was within the normal range, and thus could not be considered an impairment, Feit sought relief from the federal appeals court.
     In affirming summary judgment Tuesday for BNSF, the Ninth Circuit cited precedent defining obesity as an impairment if the person’s body weight is more than 100 percent over the norm.
     A 2013 ruling from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry says Feit weighed 220 pounds when he applied for work with BNSF.
     BNSF had noted in a court filing for an unrelated case meanwhile that Feit’s BMI was “near 40.”
     BMI tables on the website of the National Institutes of Health say an individual weighing 220 pounds, with a height of 63 inches, has a BMI of 39.
     U.S. Circuit Judges Andre Davis, Mary Schroeder and M. Margaret McKeown joined the 7-page ruling, which is unpublished and unsigned.
     BNSF has not returned an email request for comment, and there was no answer at a phone number listed for Feit.

%d bloggers like this: