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Can You Fire Someone For Being Obese?

Published February 01, 2016 (last updated February 9, 2023) - ANZ Head of Legal Services
obese employee terminated

The obesity epidemic is growing worse with every year, with 63% of the nation being overweight. In a recent employment relations case, it is apparent that obesity is affecting the health and safety of workers.

Can you fire someone for being overweight? The answer is yes, if it constitutes a safety risk. Employers who are worried that their employees weight is becoming a problem, need to address the issue before injury occurs.

Employsure’s advice to these employers is to seek professional assistance beforehand. This is to ensure that a process is followed, one of procedural fairness in order to avoid discrimination or unfair dismissal claims. A person can be dismissed within reason if their weight is inhibiting their ability to work in a particular job.

A case last November detailed a forklift driver who gained weight and as a result put himself in danger at work. His employer Parmala, worked with the forklift driver, with the help of an occupational therapist, to address a number of health problems and to get his weight under control. Due diligence was performed by the employer, which focused on supporting the employee so that he could perform his duties safety. However, during the process the employee gained more weight and as a result his employment was terminated.

Medical records and the therapist concluded that his weight and health, enabled the employee to safely and competently carry out his job. The employee filed for unfair dismissal but the Fair Work Commission ruled in favour of the employer on the basis of the process they had followed. The employers had addressed the issue with the employee, offered the employee assistance with help from the therapist, recorded and monitored medical reports and it was this process that ultimately lead to a dismissal that was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

If you are an employer who may be dealing with a similar situation and you need advice on how to follow the correct procedure, call Employsure on 1300 651 415. Employsure will be able to establish a procedure and guide you every step of the way to ensure you are following employment regulations under the Fair Work Act.

About Employsure

Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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