Court of Justice of the European Union Confirms Obesity Capable of Being a Disability Within the Meaning of the Employment Equality Directive

18th December 2014

Kaltoft v The Municipality of Billund – C- 354/13

As anticipated, the CJEU today confirmed that obesity can constitute a disability.  It held that EU law not does not lay down a general principle of non-discrimination on grounds of obesity as such.  However, the CJEU confirmed that where the obesity of the worker hindered the worker from full and effective participation in his or her professional life, and the limitation was a long term one, the obesity was capable of falling within the concept of ‘disability’ within the meaning of the Employment Equality Directive (Council Directive 2000/78/EC).  The Court held that this would be the case if the obesity of the worker hindered participation on account of reduced mobility or the onset of medical conditions preventing that person from carrying out work or causing discomfort when exercising a professional activity. The Court does not appear to have adopted the Advocate-General’s test that a BMI in excess of 40 would constitute a disability and has concluded that it is for the national courts to determine whether the obesity falls within the definition of “disability”.  A copy of the press release can be found here:

http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2014-12/cp140183en.pdf

Gillian Crew