Overweight Man Wins Discrimination Case After Job Dismissal

Outcome Reflects ECJ Ruling Earlier This Month

24.12.2014

An overweight British man has been given a six-figure sum after winning a landmark discrimination case against his employers.

Following a ruling in the European Courts of Justice last week that obesity was not a disability protected by EU law - but disabling in its effects - a High Court judge ruled the effects of obesity can be classed as a disability.

Former IT manager John Walker, 49, weighed over 21 stone when he was dismissed from his post at Sita Information Networking Computing UK, having spent seven years off work with obesity-related health problems including asthma, diabetes and chronic fatigue.

He had initially lost the case when the court ruled that he could not be categorised as disabled. The decision was overturned on appeal, and Mr Walker has now received his undisclosed payout from a health insurance company.

Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, told the Daily Mail that this could set an unnerving precedent for companies across the UK.

He said: "Employers should be hugely concerned about this. They will face problems if employees insist that they are disabled, and need special furniture or wider access to fire exits, for example.

"But the biggest cost will be the amount of money they will have to spend in contesting cases made against them."

Expert Opinion
It will be very interesting to see how the issue of obesity in the workplace and discrimination progresses across the coming year and beyond, considering the significant decisions made on the topic in recent months.

"Ultimately, there is a clear possibility that the rulings made will spell a major headache for many businesses, which will need to put provisions in place and ensure that they are aware of the potential risks.

"Employers should consider seeking guidance from legal experts regarding the current position in this area and ensure they fully understand what they may need to consider as a result of the developments seen."
Glenn Hayes, Partner