The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is considering a test case which could force employers to treat obesity as a disability. The case has been brought after a childminder in Denmark was sacked because he was too fat, according to the BBC.
The childminder in question, Karsten Kaltoft, weighs around 25 stone, and claims that while “bad habits” had made him obese he was still able to discharge his duties properly. Courts in Denmark referred the case to the ECJ to seek clarification on whether being overweight could be considered a disability.
The stakes are high because the result will be binding on every European Union member state. It will also mean that the countries in the EU will have to treat fat people under the Employment Equality Directive which bans discrimination on the grounds of disability.
Under the rules employers are required to create working environments suitable for disabled people. If the court rules in favour of Mr Kaltoft, that might include having to build facilities especially designed for those who are grossly overweight. These might include special car parking spaces, larger furniture and even stair lifts for those so fat they cannot move properly.
The employees could be overweight due to gluttony and would still qualify for support. Employers would also be unable to refuse to employ someone on the grounds they are obese.
The ruling will be seen in Britain as another example of Europe making frivolous decisions and expecting businesses to foot the bill. There are already rules banning misshapen fruit and the use of imperial measures in shops.
In the past the British have complained about activist judges in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) demanding the right of prisoners to vote. The ECHR was setup after the war to stop fascist regimes abusing their citizens, and is not part of the European Union, but the ECJ is.
This means that it would be impossible for member states to ignore the ruling, or try to reform the influence of the Court. In many respects it is similar to the United States Supreme Court, and is very much part of the constitutional fabric of the EU.