The non-binding opinion concerns the dismissal of Karsten Kaltoft, a
child-minder, by a Danish city council in 2010. Kaltoft argued that
his obesity was part of the reason he lost his job and that it
amounted to unfair discrimination, an allegation that Billund city
The Court of Justice of the European Union was asked to rule on
whether EU law forbids discrimination on the grounds of obesity and
if obesity can be considered a disability.
The advocate general, who advises the European court in Luxembourg,
found that EU law does not prohibit discrimination specifically on
the grounds of obesity, even if it does offer general protection
against bias on the grounds of disability.
But Niilo Jaaskinen, the advocate general, did conclude that extreme
obesity, classified as having a body mass index (BMI) of more than
40, could be considered a disability.
"If obesity has reached such a degree that it plainly hinders
participation in professional life, then this can be a disability,"
BMI is an indicator of obesity which takes into account a person's
weight and height. Kaltoft never weighed less than 160 kg (352 lbs)
during his employment, meaning he had a BMI of 54, the advocate
Recommendations from advocates general are usually followed by the
court, which will consider the Kaltoft case over the next few
[to top of second column]
In his opinion, Jaaskinen said that even where the condition does
not affect a person's ability to carry out a specific job, it can
still make it harder compared to other people, therefore making it a
Furthermore, Jaaskinen threw out the notion that a "self-inflicted"
disability could be any less worthy of protection, saying "the
origin of the disability is irrelevant".
"(It) does not depend on whether the applicant has contributed
causally to the acquisition of his disability through
“self-inflicted” excessive energy intake," he added.
If the EU court upholds Jaaskinen's view, it would be up to a Danish
court to decide whether Kaltoft’s obesity met this definition.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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