Can employers legally discriminate against the obese? That's the question currently before the top court in the European Union. At the heart of the issue is whether obesity is to be considered a disability under the E.U.'s Employment Equality Directive, which protects people against employment discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation, age, or disability status.
The case comes to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) from Denmark, where 350-pound child caretaker Karsten Kaltoft says he was fired from his position for being too fat. But the court's decision could reverberate far beyond the Karloft's particular fate. If the ECJ labels obesity a disability, it would be be binding throughout the European Union. Elizabeth Nolan Brown explores potential ramifications of redefining obesity this way.