The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has recently considered the issue of whether or not European equality law protects people from discrimination on the grounds of their weight. In the Case C-354/13 Karsten Kaltoft v Kommunernes Landsforening, acting on behalf of the Municipality of Billund, a Danish child minder argued he had been the victim of unlawful discrimination after he was allegedly fired for being overweight. His employers argued that Mr Kaltoft, who weighed around 160kg, was unable to perform basic tasks which were expected in his job, such as tying the laces of the children in his care.
The Court’s decision is still awaited. However, the opinion of Advocate General Jaaskinen has been released and, as these opinions are regularly followed, it may indicate how the CJEU will decide the case. Although the Advocate General did not go as far as to say that obesity itself was a protected characteristic in anti-discrimination law, he suggested that where a person’s obesity was ‘extreme, severe or morbid’, his or her condition could be characterised as a disability. This was because it would ‘hinder participation in professional life’. As such, less favourable treatment on the basis of a person’s weight may constitute unlawful disability discrimination.
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