In FOA (Kaltoft) v Billund the ECJ handed down its judgement in a case concerning a Danish child minder who was dismissed by his local authority employer. Mr Kaltoft weighed over 25st when he lost his job and it was argued his weight was one of the main reasons for his dismissal and it therefore constituted unfair discrimination. This is the first time a case has been brought at ECJ level regarding protection as a result of clinical obesity.
The ECJ held "while no general principle of EU law prohibits, in itself, discrimination on grounds of obesity, that condition falls within the concept of disability where, under particular conditions, it hinders the full and effective participation of the person concerned in professional life on an equal basis with other workers...Such would be the case, in particular, if the obesity of the worker hindered that participation on account of reduced mobility or the onset of medical conditions preventing that person from carrying out work or causing discomfort when exercising professional activity."
Obesity in itself is not a disability however the symptoms arising from the condition may give rise to protection from discrimination. The ECJ also held the source of an individual's obesity was not relevant.
The judgement is binding across the EU however it is for the national court of each member state to decide if and when obesity is so severe to constitute a disability. The needs of every employee from a physical and mental health point of view will require to be assessed on a case by case basis (the ECJ intentionally did not specify a BMI at which obesity could constitute a disability). This is another area where employers should bear in mind the continuing obligation to make reasonable adjustments on behalf of their staff.
(Link to full judgment - http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/EUECJ/2014/C35413.html)