Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Employers Responsible for Weight-Loss Surgery

The National Law Journal reported today on two cases in which employers were required to pay for their employees' weight-loss procedures. Both cases were similar in that the employees claimed the weight-loss procedures were necessary to undergo surgery for work-related injuries. In one case, an Indiana pizza shop was ordered to pay for a $20,000+ "lap-band" surgery!

Employers are concerned that injured employees will essentially try to "tack-on" the weight loss procedures any time they get surgery for work-related injuries. It could also prove an expensive point of litigation with battling experts hashing out alternative weight-loss methods and the necessity of weight loss.

Obese employees could view these cases as a victory but should not be so quick to celebrate. Sure, there's a good chance their weight-loss procedures could be covered should they need it for an operation for a work-related injury. But, employers will be aware of this potential cost of hiring and employing obese individuals. This could lead to discrimination against a group that is often discriminated against with little legal protection. I will note that the ADA covers obese individuals in some circumstances and some state laws may provide coverage as well.

Cases