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Severe obesity is a disability, European Court of Justice advisor rules

A preliminary ruling by the advocate general of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 17 July concluded that very severe obesity (i.e. having a body mass index of more than 40) could be classed as a disability if it severely hindered professional life. 

The ruling, which is likely to inform court judgments across the EU, follows a claim by Danish childminder Karsten Kaltoft, who claims he was fired partly because of his weight. If obesity does gain classification as a disability under EU law, severely overweight workers will be protected from discrimination at work.  

The ECJ will now consider the case in greater detail. If successful, Kaltoft's case could force changes in the way employers deal with staff and what support they might be required to provide. 

Employers may be legally obliged to provide special parking spaces and desks for obese employees, and ensure healthy foods are available at canteens and from vending machines.

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