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Suit may expand California disability protections

Physical disabilities do not stop thousands of Californians from making irreplaceable contributions to the state economy. Smart managers know that people dealing with physical differences should not be excluded from the workplace and every effort should be made to adapt to their needs.

The Golden State has identified specific protected groups to codify discrimination that must be prevented, and people with physical disabilities are included. A recent case involving a worker who experienced harassment and inappropriate behavior at her workplace may be updating these protections in California law.

The worker, a former 15-year employee of a tennis club, claims she was fired over her weight. Her supervisor made offense remarks about her physical appearance and asked if she had considered surgery to lose weight. He also reportedly reduced her pay compared to smaller employees.

The suit was ruled upon by state court of appeals, which allowed most of the former employee's claims can proceed to trial by jury. The court's opinion stated that severe obesity may qualify as a legally protected disability. This was based on a California Supreme Court ruling that defines obesity as protected if it is caused by a physiological condition affecting one or more body systems and limits life activities.

Victims of disability discrimination and other forms of workplace harassment may have grounds for a lawsuit. Financial damages, such as compensation for lost wages and reimbursement for court costs, may be claimed. Legal representation may help victims sort out their options and gather evidence of incidents or patterns of discrimination.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, "Is terminating a severely overweight employee disability discrimination?," Dan Eaton, Jan. 08, 2018

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