On July 2d we wrote that only one state – Michigan – and only 6 cities prohibit discrimination based upon physical appearance or obesity, but noted that a few courts have taken the position that obesity is a “disability” under the expanded ADA definition.

Apropos our recent blog, it has just been reported by the EEOC that BAE Systems Tactical Vehicle Systems, a Virginia-based military vehicle manufacturing company which had been sued under the ADA by the EEOC on behalf of an employee who was fired allegedly because he was “morbidly obese,” has entered into a consent decree and has agreed to pay the employee $55,000 and provide six months of outplacement services.

The fired employee weighed 680 pounds when employed (but now weighs about 350 pounds), but was alleged by the EEOC to have been qualified to perform the essential functions of his job, and to have been denied any reasonable accommodations by his employer.

Although the EEOC’s lawsuit was based upon the ADA, and not upon a law that explicitly bans discrimination against person who are obese, we once again commend our readers to an important new working paper drafted by a Vanderbilt University academic which suggests that laws which make the obese a protected class are more effective in combating such discrimination than treating obesity as a disability under the ADA.