In June, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially recognized obesity as a disease, raising the question of whether this would push obesity into the ever-expanding category of conditions requiring accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has long distinguished between “morbid obesity,” commonly defined as a body mass index greater than 40, which it considers a disability, and less-severe obesity, which it does not. 

The AMA action, while interesting, does not carry the same weight as the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of new diagnoses in the DSM-5 because the AMA does not set diagnostic standards and codes, says James McDonald Jr., a Fisher & Phillips partner.

“But I do anticipate a greater push by plaintiffs’ counsel to attempt to qualify obesity as a disability,” he says. “Whether the EEOC changes its definition remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised, given the broad way the EEOC has defined disability under the ADA Amendments Act.”