Per a recent Kentucky Court of Appeals decision, morbid obesity is considered a protected disability and employers are precluded from discriminating against employees on such a basis.
The determination comes in an opinion regarding a lawsuit filed by a Kentucky woman claiming she was discriminated against and wrongfully fired due to her morbid obesity, in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. The Kentucky Civil Rights Act mandates that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, or disability.
Melissa Pennington, a 5’4 tall, 425-pound woman who worked for Wagner’s Pharmacy for over 10 years specifically claimed that she was fired by an office manager because she was “overweight and dirty.” Pennington claimed her condition of morbid obesity constituted a protected disability and despite an unfavorable ruling at the trial court level, Pennington appealed the decision and the Kentucky Court of Appeals agreed with her. The court based its decision on expert testimony which concluded that morbid obesity was a metabolic disease and a physical condition.
This case demonstrates that Kentucky courts appear to be broadening the medical conditions which can be considered a protected disability under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.