Frank Morris, Jr., Quoted in “Legal Disputes Contemplate Disability Protections for Obese Workers”

Business Insurance

Frank C. Morris, Jr., Member of the Firm in the Litigation and Employee Benefits practices, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, was quoted in Business Insurance, in “Legal Disputes Contemplate Disability Protections for Obese Workers,” by Judy Greenwald.

Following is an excerpt:

A federal appeals court has punted the issue of whether morbid obesity per se is a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it may only be a matter of time before a federal circuit court says it is, many experts say.

So far, four circuit courts of appeal have held obesity can only be considered a disability if there is an underlying physiological condition.

Meanwhile, at least two state supreme courts, in Washington and Montana, have held that morbid obesity per se can be considered a disability, and more state courts are expected to follow.

Experts suggest employers in any case proceed cautiously in their dealings with obese workers.

The latest federal appeals court decision on the matter, Jose Valtierra v. Medtronic Inc., by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, upheld a ruling by the U.S. District Court in Phoenix. …

Four other U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal — the 8th in St, Louis, the 6th in Cincinnati, the 2nd in New York and the 7th in Chicago — have held obesity can be considered a disability only if it is caused by an underlying physiological condition. …

A federal court may eventually rule otherwise, though, say some observers.

With the increasing incidence of obesity, “there are probably going to be more claims associated with it, and for that reason, it’s quite possible that one court or another may take a different view,” said Frank C. Morris Jr., a member with Epstein Becker Green PC in Washington.