One Size Does Not Fit All: Accommodating Obesity-Related Disabilities in the Workplace


Several factors are combining to make it increasingly important that employers recognize their obligation to accommodate job applicants and employees with obesity-related disabilities, and respond effectively to requests for such accommodations when they arise. This article provides analysis and guidance that is intended to assist employers and practitioners in anticipating and responding to requests for obesity-related workplace accommodations. It is based on a review and analysis of all identified U.S. judicial decisions involving obesity-related workplace accommodations that were either voluntarily provided or disputed by an employer. The results of that review and analysis are summarized in a table by the type of accommodation, job, and court ruling (when the accommodation was not voluntarily provided). The table provides a list of potential obesity-related accommodations that is both more comprehensive and more specific than any list previously published in the legal, behavioral sciences, or health literatures. Key legal issues are identified and discussed, and practical guidance is provided. Although the focus is U.S. law, the guidance provided has relevance to employers and practitioners in the European Union, and those countries whose laws recognize that obesity may involve a legally protected disability that entitles an individual to reasonable accommodation in at least some circumstances.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    The ADAAA amended the ADA to explicitly provide that employers need not provide reasonable accommodation to individuals who are covered by the ADA only as a result of being “regarded as disabled.” Also, although in theory individuals covered by the ADA under the “record of disability’ prong might be entitled to an accommodation, a review of failure to accommodate cases involving obesity-related disabilities did not identify any reported cases in which a plaintiff claimed a right to an accommodation based on having a record of disability.


  1. Anderson, C. L. (2013). Unification of standards in discrimination law: The conundrum of causation and reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Mississippi Law Journal, 82, 67–126.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Andrew v. Racing Corp. of West Virginia, 2013 W. Va. LEXIS 781 (Sup. Ct. W. Va. 2013).

  3. Anguilo v. United States or America, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83145 (N.D. ILL. 2012).

  4. Barajas v. County of Los Angeles, Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2337 (2nd App. D. Ca. 2008).

  5. Barboza v. Greater Media Newspapers, et al., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55716, 10 (D. NJ 2008).

  6. Barnes v. City of Coon Rapids, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37139 (D. Mn. 2009).

  7. Bass v. UPMC Horizon, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13683 (W.D. Pa. 2013).

  8. Beem v. Providence Health & Service, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118428 (E.D. Wa. 2011).

  9. Befort, S. F. (2013). An empirical examination of case outcomes under the ADA Amendments Act. Washington & Lee Law Review, 70, 2027–2071.

  10. Bevins, B. (2003). Employability of individuals with varying disabilities and costs of needed workplace accommodations, East Tennessee State University, ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing.

  11. Biagas v. District of Columbia, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5437 (D.C. 2010).

  12. Brown v. BKW Drywall Supply, Inc., 305 F. Supp. 2d 814 (S.D. Ohio 2004).

  13. Brownwood v. Wells Trucking, LLC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135005 (Co. 2017).

  14. Bucklew v. Wal-Mart Stores, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85172 (D. S.C. 2012).

  15. Budzdan v. DuPage County Regional Office of Education, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5094 (N.D. Ill. 2013).

  16. Carreras v. Sajo, Garcia & Partners, 596 F.3d 25, at 32 (1st Cir. 2010).

  17. Chiarello v. South Jersey Transp. Auth., 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1501 (2016).

  18. Cook v. Rhode Island, Dep’t of Mental Health, Retardation, & Hosps., 10 F.3d 17 (1st Cir. 1993).

  19. Cornell v. Berkeley Tennis Club, 2017 Cal. App. LEXIS 1147 (Ca. 2017).

  20. Cristia v. Red Door Spa, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22165 (N.D. Ill. 2008).

  21. EEOC v. Resources for Human Development, 827 F. Supp. 2d. 688, 695 (E.D. La. 2011).

  22. EEOC v. St. Joseph’s Hospital, Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19272 (M.D. Fla. 2015).

  23. Glasson v. Res-Care California, Inc., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13666 (E.D. Ca. 2006).

  24. Greenberg v. Bellsouth Telecomm., 498 F.3d 1258 (11th Cir. 2007).

  25. Gumina v. Rite Aid, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97899 (M.D. Pa. 2015).

  26. Hallstrom v. Barker, 2004 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8185 (2nd App. D. 2004).

  27. Hayes v. Wal-mart, 781 F. Supp. 2d 1080 (D. Or. 2011).

  28. Hill v. Verizon, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59786 (D. Md. 2009).

  29. Honey v. County of Rockland, 200 F. Supp. 2d 311 (S.D. NY 2002).

  30. Hopkins v. General Motors, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13515 (E.D. Mich. 2007).

  31. Jayasinghe, M. (2016). The operational and signaling benefits of voluntary labor code adoption: Reconceptualizing the scope of human resource management in emerging economies. Academy of Management Journal, 59(2), 658–677.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Kaltoft v. Municipality of Billund, Case C- 354/13, EU: C: 2014: 2463.

  33. Keel v. City of Hopkinsville, 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 35777 (6th Cir. 1991).

  34. Lamb v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan Northwest, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140982 (D. Or. 2015).

  35. Laramee v. The Jewish Guild for the Blind, 72 F. Supp. 2d 357 (S.D. NY 1999).

  36. Lee, M., Ata, R. N., & Brannick, M. T. (2014). Malleability of weight-biased attitudes and beliefs: A meta-analysis of weight bias reduction interventions. Body Image, 11(3), 251–259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Lescoe v. Penn. Dept. of Corrections, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34325 (M.D. Pa., 2011), aff’d

  38. Lescoe v. Penn. Dept. of Corrections, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 3022 (3rd Cir. 2012).

  39. Magnant v. Panelmatic Texas, Inc., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59261 (S.D. Tx. 2006).

  40. McDonald v. State of Kansas, 880 F. Supp. 1416 (D. Kan. 1995).

  41. McKibben v. Hamilton County, Ohio, 215 F.3d 1327 (6th Cir. 2000).

  42. Michaels v. Continental Realty, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109172 (D. Md. 2011).

  43. Miller v. Hartzell Propeller, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23807 (S.D. Ohio 1997).

  44. Monahan, C. A., Goldman, T. L., & Oswald, D. (2014). Establishing a physical impairment of weight under the ADA/ADAAA: Problems of bias in the legal system. ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law, 29(3), 537–562.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Mont-Ros v. City of Miami, 111 F. Supp. 2d 1338 (S.D. Fla. 2000).

  46. Morrow v. City of Jacksonville, 941 F. Supp. 816 (W.D. Ark. 1996).

  47. Ni v. Rite Aid, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62531 (D. NJ 2010).

  48. Ogden, C., Carroll, M., Fryar, C.D., & Flegal, K.M. (2015). Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, 2011–2014. National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief No. 219, available at Accessed 27 Dec 2018.

  49. Powell v. Gentiva Health Services, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17709 (S.D. Ala. 2014).

  50. Puhl, R. M., Suh, Y., & Li, X. (2016). Legislating for weight-based equality: National trends in public support for laws to prohibit weight discrimination. International Journal of Obesity, 40, 1320–1324.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Roehling, M.V., Choi, M.G., & Roehling, P.V. (forthcoming). Weight discrimination in the workplace: Current knowledge and future research needs. Research in Human Resource Management, Information Age.

  52. Sandor v. Delmont Brothers, 92 F. Supp. 3d 355 (W.D. Pa. 2015).

  53. Scheerer v. Potter, 443 F.3d 916, 918 (7th Cir. 2006).

  54. Schuler, R., Dowling, P., & De Cieri, H. (1993). An integrative framework of strategic international human resource management. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 1, 717–764.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Shanks v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95502 (N.D. Ca. 2016).

  56. Shinall, J. B. (2016). Distaste or disability? Evaluating the legal framework for protecting obese workers. Berkeley Journal of Employment & Labor Law, 37, 101–142.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Smallwood v. Witco Corporation, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18106 (S.D. NY 1995).

  58. Sulima v. Tobyhanna Army Depo, 602 F.3d 177 (3rd Cir. 2010).

  59. Target Stores v. Labor and Indus. Review Comm’n., 217 Wis. 2d 1; 576 N.W.2d 545 (Wis. Ct. App. 1998).

  60. Taylor, L.G. (2017). An introduction to the reasonable accommodation process under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, American Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division, available at Accessed 27 Dec 2018.

  61. Taylor v. Burlington Northern Railroad Holdings, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19879, 24–25 (W.D. Wa. 2016).

  62. Taylor v. Virtua Health, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45800 (D.N.J. 2007).

  63. Toll v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23436 (N.D. Tx. 1998); aff’d Toll v. American Airlines, 161 F.3d 7 (5th Cir. 1998).

  64. Triana, M., Jayasinghe, M., & Pieper, J. (2015). Perceived workplace racial discrimination and its correlates: A meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(4), 491–513.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. U.S EEOC (2013). Interpretive Guidance on Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, available at Accessed 27 Dec 2018.

  66. U.S. Airways v. Barnett, 535 U.S. 391 (2002).

  67. U.S. EEOC (2002). Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the Americans with Disabilities Act, available at Accessed 27 Dec 2018.

  68. Valderrama, H. K. (2010). Is the ADAAA a “quick fix” or are we out the frying pan and into the fire?: How requiring parties to participate in the interactive process can effect congressional intent under the ADAAA. Houston Law Review, 47, 175–214.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Valtierrra v. Medtronic Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXUS 15471 (D. Ax. 2017).

  70. Webb v. Schwartz Creek Community Schools, 2001 Mich. App. LEXIS 742 (Mich. Ct. App. 2001).

  71. Whaley v. Southwest Student Transportation, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9103 (N.D. Tx. 2002).

  72. Wilkerson v. Shinseki, 606 F.3d 1256 (10th Cir. 2010).

  73. Wilkes v. Nucor-Yamato Steel Co., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131241 (E.D. Ark. 2015).

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mark V. Roehling.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Human Participants and/or Animals

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.

Informed Consent

As indicated above, the submitted manuscript does report a study involving human participants; as a result, there was no need (or opportunity) to obtain informed consent.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Roehling, M.V., Jayasinghe, M. One Size Does Not Fit All: Accommodating Obesity-Related Disabilities in the Workplace. Employ Respons Rights J 31, 1–27 (2019).

Download citation


  • Reasonable accommodations
  • Disability
  • Obesity
  • Discrimination