Overweight workers may struggle to fulfill their job duties because activities such as bending, stooping, squatting, crawling, climbing, crouching, and kneeling can be difficult for an obese person.
In addition, pushing, pulling, lifting, or any repetitive activity, including sitting, standing or walking for long periods of time and even short distances can tax an obese person’s body.
Furthermore, reaching above shoulder level or balancing can present a safety hazard or fall risk for an obese person.
What all this means is that obesity increases the likelihood of work-related injuries. In fact, obese workers file twice as many workers’ compensation claims as those who are not obese.
But, how exactly does obesity factor into a workers’ compensation claim? Can you receive workers’ compensation for an obesity-related injury?
Compensation For Work Related Injuries
Workers’ compensation laws are established to protect workers who sustain work-related injuries and illness, meaning injuries and illness that arise out of the course and scope of your employment.
The American Medical Association (AMA) reclassified obesity as a disease in 2013. At that time, many (mostly employers and workers’ compensation insurance providers) feared that this would have a severe financial impact on the workers’ compensation system.
But, because a clear link between obesity and a person’s employment can be difficult to establish, there has been very few instances of obesity-related workers’ compensation claims being filed or approved.
Obesity Combined With Other Work-Related Injuries
That being said, there have been instances where courts have awarded workers’ compensation coverage to treat obesity alongside a conventional work-related injury.
In one such case, an Indiana restaurant worker required Lap Band surgery and back surgery following an injury he sustained at work.
Lap Band surgery is a surgical procedure in which an adjustable belt (or band) is placed around the upper stomach to make it smaller and to assist with weight reduction.
The need for Lap Band surgery arose from the fact that the worker weighed in excess of 340 pounds when he sustained a back injury, after being knocked down by the freezer door in the kitchen of the restaurant in which he worked.
After the injury, the worker experienced extreme back pain that ultimately spread to his legs. His doctors then decided that an operation would be required in order to elevate the pain.
However, the worker was advised that unless he lost weight before having the back surgery, it would be unsuccessful. They were even of the opinion that if he lost enough weight, the back surgery might not be necessary.
Nevertheless, it had already been determined that the worker could not lose weight on his own. So, Lap Band surgery was suggested to help him lose the weight before the back surgery.
The Court of Appeals of Indiana found that his weight situation, when added to the back injury, created a “single injury status” that made him eligible to have both the weight reduction surgery and the back surgery covered by his employer, who had initially rejected the weight reduction surgery.
So, whereas being entitled to workers’ compensation for obesity alone may not be entirely feasible at this point, workers’ compensation to deal with obesity alongside another work-related injury is certainly feasible.
If you suffer from obesity which is making it harder for you to recover from a compensable work-related injury, contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer for advice.