Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Does the ADA cover morbid obesity? Federal appellate court says maybe 🤷‍♂️

Jose Valtierra weighed 370 pounds at the time Medtronic terminated his employment in 2014 for falsifying job reports. Valtierra claimed that he had been denied an accommodation for his morbid obesity, which he alleged caused him to be unable to perform his job. Hence, the fake job reports.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals punted on the issue of whether "morbid obesity" is a disability covered by the ADA.

Instead, it concluded that it could decide the case on other grounds—namely, even if the ADA covers morbid obesity as a disability, Valtierra could not establish a causal connection between said disability and his termination.

In this case, however, we need not take a definitive stand on the question of whether morbid obesity itself is an “impairment” under the ADA. That is because, even assuming that it is such an impairment, or that Valtierra suffered from a disabling knee condition that the district court could have considered, he would have to show some causal relationship between these impairments and his termination. He is unable to do so. Valtierra admits he closed twelve maintenance assignments as having been completed when he had not done the work. In addition, he had worked for Medtronic for more than ten years and had always weighed in excess of 300 pounds. There is no basis for concluding that he was terminated for any reason other than Medtronic’s stated ground that he falsified records to show he had completed work assignments.

Is morbid obesity an ADA-protected disability? Most courts that have looked at this issue—including the 6th Circuit—have concluded it is not. Obesity is not an excuse for dishonesty. Disabled or not, submitting fraudulent work records is a sure-fire way to terminate your own employment.