25 March 2013

Obesity not a disability but...

In Walker v Sita Information Networking Computing Ltd the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) overturned the finding of the employment tribunal and found W to be disabled.

The Employment Judge had found that W was not disabled because he could not identify a specific physical or mental condition. Evidence of the occupational health doctor was that there was no pathological process but rather there was a functional/behavioural issue. The appeal before the EAT was whether obesity is an impairment.

W suffered from asthma, knee problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome, bowel and stomach problems, anxiety and depression, persistent cough and sacroiliac joint pains (an abbreviated list) which were all genuine and accepted by S. These conditions were, in part, a function of W being obese - he weighed 21½ stone (137 kgs).

The EAT stated that the absence of an apparent cause is not a legal but an evidential matter. The Equality Act 2010 does not require a focus on the cause of the impairment. The EAT went on to state that someone is not disabled because they are obese but it may make it more likely that they are disabled. Someone determined to lose weight within 12 months may not meet the definition.

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