The EU’s highest court has ruled that obesity can constitute a disability in certain circumstances.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) was asked to consider the case of a male childcare in Denmark who says he was sacked for being too fat.
The court said that if obesity could hinder “full and effective participation” at work then it could count as a disability.
The ruling is binding across the EU.
Judges said that obesity in itself was not a disability – but if a person had a long term impairment because of their obesity, then they would be protected by disability legislation.
He brought a discrimination case against his employers of 15 years, Billund local authority, after he was sacked.
The authority said a fall in the number of children meant Karsten Kaltoft was no longer required.
Howerver, Karsten Kaltoft said he was dismissed because he was overweight.
The Danish courts asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to clarify whether obesity was a disability.
The ECJ ruled: “The Court finds that if, under given circumstances, the obesity of the worker entails a limitation which results in particular from physical, mental or psychological impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder the full and effective participation of that person in professional life on an equal basis with other workers, and the limitation is a long-term one, such obesity can fall within the concept of ‘disability’ within the meaning of the directive.”
Rulings from the ECJ are binding for all EU member nations.
The courts in Denmark will now have to assess Karsten Kaltoft’s weight to see if his case can be classed as a disability.