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OBESITY MAY QUALIFY AS A DISABILITY UNDER CALIFORNIA LAW

The California Court of Appeal recently ruled that obesity may qualify as a disability under the Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"). Cornell v. Berkeley Tennis Club, 2017 WL 6524707 (Cal. Ct. App. 2017). Ketryn Cornell was a severely obese woman who was fired from her job as a manager. Prior to her termination, she received positive reviews, merit bonuses, and raises throughout her employment from 1997 to 2012. In 2012, the employer hired a new general manager who mandated the staff to wear uniform shirts. However, the largest size ordered by the employer did not fit Cornell. She was thereafter fired. Ms. Cornell filed a lawsuit against the employer for disability discrimination.

Under the FEHA, it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee on the basis of "physical disability." The FEHA also makes it unlawful "to fail to make reasonable accommodation for the known physical...disability of an...employee." Cornell argued that her obesity qualified as an actual physical disability because it is a "physiological disease, disorder, condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss that does both of the following. (Gov't Code section 12926(m)(1)). The Court of Appeal agreed.

If you or someone you know has been terminated from their job, give us a call for a free consultation (818) 405-0080. You may have a claim for loss of wages, loss of future earnings, and emotional distress.