FordHarrison Files Amicus Brief in Obesity Discrimination Case

Date   Jan 8, 2019

CHICAGO – FordHarrison LLP, one of the country’s largest management-side labor and employment law firms, filed an Amicus Curiae brief in the Seventh Circuit on behalf of the Illinois Association for Defense Trial Counsel in support of the Chicago Transit Authority in the obesity discrimination case, Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority. The brief filed in this case urges the Seventh Circuit to affirm the trial court’s determination that obesity is not a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The brief argues that the court must consider whether a universally accepted definition of “obesity” exists before considering whether “obesity” is an ADA “impairment,” and that the court should consider the number of potential employees at issue shows that Congress never intended the ADA to provide automatic protection for obese individuals.

FordHarrison partner Kimberly Ross authored the brief, which, among other things, notes there is no medical agreement or accepted definition of obesity that a court or employers can use in its analysis. The brief points out the flaws in the Body Mass Index (BMI) and risks of using that standard to determine whether an individual is obese, including its potential overbreadth. For example, if the Seventh Circuit adopts the definition of obese urged by the appellant and amici in Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority, a high proportion of NFL football players (and many other elite athletes) would be considered obese and therefore physically impaired.

The brief also notes that if all overweight or obese employees are automatically provided protection, there will be an increase in “regarded as” disability claims, the interactive process will become unworkable without adequate medical information, and employers are likely to be overburdened with significant cost increases to accommodate.

View the brief here.

About the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel (IADTC) is made up of Illinois attorneys who devote a substantial portion of their practice to the representation of business, corporate, insurance, professional, governmental, and other individual defendants in civil litigation. This includes the representation of companies in employment litigation and counseling. For over 50 years it has been the mission of the IADTC to ensure civil justice with integrity, civility, and professional competence. One of IADTC’s core missions is to take positions on issues of significance to the defense bar.

About FordHarrison LLP
FordHarrison is a labor & employment firm with nearly 200 attorneys in 29 offices, including three affiliate firms. The firm has built a national legal practice as one of the nation's leading defense firms with an exclusive focus on labor law, employment law, litigation, business immigration, employee benefits and executive compensation. Through its global practice group and membership in the global employment law firm alliance, Ius Laboris, FordHarrison provides clients that have multinational operations with a broad range of services related to labor and employment law in over 50 countries throughout the world. FordHarrison is committed to our FH Promise, a set of principles that guides our firm in the delivery of legal services and client communications. For more information on FordHarrison, visit To learn more about Ius Laboris, visit