On the hook for bariatric surgery

September 11, 2009
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
An Indiana Court of Appeals ruling last month favoring an obese employee is likely to make employers think twice about hiring overweight people.

That’s the take of Brandon Shelton, an attorney at the Indianapolis office of employment law firm Ogletree Deakins.

The appeals court backed a lower court and the workers compensation board in affirming that a pizza joint in northwestern Indiana not only must pay for back surgery for a 340-pound worker hurt on the job, but also for bariatric surgery to improve odds of the back surgery succeeding.

A January amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act boosts the likelihood that employers are prohibited from discriminating against overweight people in the hiring process, although no regulatory interpretations or court cases have explicitly stated this.

Now that precedent is set for Indiana employers’ being on the hook not only for an injury, but also for a preexisting condition (obesity), more employers will quietly reject obese applicants, Shelton predicts.

“Whether that’s unlawful is an entirely different question,” he says, making clear that it indeed would be unlawful.

How the workers compensation board and lower courts will apply yesterday’s ruling is an interesting question. Is obesity now considered a preexisting condition? If so, are employers are on the hook to pay for obesity in an unrelated work injury?

The pizza shop case is a classic case of bad facts leading to bad law, Shelton believes. Obesity didn’t cause the injury; yet, obesity now could be considered a preexisting condition.

Shelton, by the way, notes that the appeals court followed Indiana precedent in its ruling, so the court wasn’t out of bounds. What are your thoughts?

ADVERTISEMENT
  • This is absolutely sickening! I cannot believe that the court ruled in favor of the employer having to pay for the cost of this employeeâ??s weight loss surgery. Our country continues to reinforce bad behavior and takes any responsibility off of those with bad habits. Meanwhile the rest of us are footing the bill, with regard to the expense in healthcare, employerâ??s loss in illness and then these ridiculous claims. When are people going to start taking responsibility for their own actions? If you ate cheeseburgers and fries and live a stagnate lifestyle then you should pay for your own health problems which you caused on your own. Smokers pay an increased rate because they choose to smoke incurring additional medical problems, then why aren't those who decide to live a precarious lifestyle by eating complete garbage and not being active held to that same standard. It's insane what is going on with regards to obesity in this country. I'm sick of seeing fat and unhealthy people!
    • What's the point of having a place to put in a comment title if it doesn't appear anywhere on the post?
    • Great post, Norm

      I've always been a big guy with how should we say, "weight fluctuations," but the significance here is that this codifies or at least acknowledges what is already probably already happening. Heavy people already know they face discrimination just based on human nature.

      Let's face it, there are more important reasons than this example for heavy people to slim down and maintain a healthy weight.

    Post a comment to this blog

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT
    1. Only half a million TV Viewers? And thats an increase? I knew Indycar was struggling but I didn't know it was that bad. Hell, if NASCAR hits 5 Million viewers everyone starts freaking out saying its going down hill. It has a long way to before Indycar even hits NASCAR's bad days.

    2. IU has been talking that line for years with no real progress even with the last Dean, Dr. Brater. Why will an outsider, Dr. Hess, make a difference? With no proof of additional resources (cash in the bank), and a concrete plan to move an academic model that has been outdated for decades with a faculty complacent with tenure and inertia, I can count on IU to remain the same during the tenure of Dr. Hess. One ought to look to Purdue and Notre Dame for change and innovation. It is just too bad that both of those schools do not have their own medical school. Competition might wake up IU. My guess is, that even with those additions to our State, IU will remain in its own little world squandering our State's tax dollars. Why would any donor want to contribute to IU with its track record? What is its strategy to deal with the physician shortage for our State? New leadership will not be enough for us to expect any change.

    3. How do you think the Bridges got approved? I spent a couple days researching PAC's and individual contributions to some city council members during that time. My printouts were inches thick on the two I concentrated on. Finally gave up. Was disgusted with all the donations, and who they were from. Would have taken me days and days to compile a complete list. Tried to give it to the Star reporter, but he thought it was all just fine. (and apparently he was treated well himself) He ended up being laid off or fired though. And then of course, there was land donated to the dad's club, or city, as a partial payoff. All done in the shining example of "charity." No, none of these contributions are a coincidence.

    4. I agree what kind of help or if any will be there for Dr. Ley's patients. I was a patient myself.

    5. What about the hundreds of patients who sought this doctor for the right reasons, to quit drugs. what option do these patients now have, experience horrible withdrawl or return to heroin?? those are the choices. what about the children of these former addicts who's parent(s) WILL not b able to maintain their job, for @ least 2 weeks.. There needs to b an emergency clinic opened for these patients.

    ADVERTISEMENT