Federal Appeals Court Rules No ADA Claim for Obese Job Applicant

A job applicant rejected for a railroad mechanic's job because of morbid obesity has no Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim against the employer, a federal appeals court has ruled.  Because the applicant's weight was not caused by an underlying physiological disorder, it is not a "physical impairment" under the ADA. Had the applicant's obesity been the result of a physiological disorder that affects a major body system, the applicant's condition would have been protected by the ADA, and the employer would not have been able to reject the employee solely on account of his weight without violating the ADA. 

The ADA requires employers to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to apply for jobs and to work in jobs for which they are qualified.  The statute also limits the kinds of medical information employers can get from job applicants and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to the known limitations of qualified individuals with disabilities.
Disabilities advocates criticized the court's decision, saying the result could have an "unfortunate impact" if other employers adopt the policies that the employer adopted in this case.  Allowing employers to reject applicants based on obesity could also have disproportionate adverse impacts based on age and race, disabilities advocates argued.
A summary of employers' requirements under the ADA is available here.
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David Fialkov

David Fialkov is the Vice President of Government Relations, as well as the Legislative and Regulatory Counsel, at NATSO. In this capacity, Mr. Fialkov directs NATSO's legislative, regulatory, and legal strategy on a range of issues, including transportation, energy and fuels, labor, data security, and taxes. Mr. Fialkov also oversees NATSO's political engagement program, including individualized legal and political counsel to member companies. Prior to joining NATSO, Mr. Fialkov was the senior associate in the Government Affairs and Public Policy practice at the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson in Washington, D.C. At Steptoe, Mr. Fialkov advised clients on legislative, regulatory, and political issues, as well as legal concerns. His primary clients included trade associations representing the motor fuel wholesale and retail industries, including the National Association of Convenience Stores and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America. Mr. Fialkov's focus was not only on the motor fuels business, but also the litany of other issues that retailers confront, including labor matters, foodservice issues, healthcare and employment issues, tax matters and data security. Prior to joining Steptoe, Mr. Fialkov graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School. He received his B.S. Summa cum laude with highest honors from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Allison and daughter Lilah. More
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