When President Obama spoke to school children last week, he gave the kind of speech I would have given: he emphasized that personal responsibility is the ticket to a life of success and a strong country. He mentioned that all the equipment, books, and desks were all well and good, but useful only if students took the responsibility to work hard at their studies.
I wish our courts (and the rest of the President’s agenda) followed that concept of personal responsibility. Not so.
An Indiana court has ruled that a pizza shop must pay for a 340 pound employee’s weight loss surgery in order to ensure the success of another operation for a back injury he suffered at work when he was accidentally struck in the back by a freezer door. I wonder how much his girth was responsible for the accident. I don’t wonder how much his girth is responsible for the fact that the surgery for his back won’t be undertaken until he reduces his weight first – no kidding! But making the pizza shop employer responsible for paying for that weight loss surgery is not in keeping with the President’s message of personal responsibility.
The man was obese before he was hired. If he hadn’t been hired because of his weight, that would have been discrimination, and would have been illegal. Employers are screwed no matter what they do to run a business and make a reasonable profit.
This is not the only such case. The most recent was in Oregon, where the state’s Supreme Court ruled on August 27 that the state workers’ compensation insurance must pay for gastric bypass surgery to ensure that a man’s knee replacement surgery was effective.
Businesses will definitely and understandably be much more careful about whom they hire. While they can’t not hire a fat person because he or she is fat, they are not obligated to hire the first person who shows up for the job, and they can and should come up with some other reason to protect themselves from unreasonable financial demands because they hired a person who eats more and moves less.
Obviously, this situation is anti-personal responsibility and anti-business. This ruling will have repercussions beyond obesity and weight-loss surgery. Employers will be wary of hiring people who have other conditions that expose them to workplace injury. Developmental and physical limitations of some applicants will likely keep potential employers from being as compassionate as they’ve been in the past.
This is really sad, because ultimately, it’s the individual with some challenges who will suffer.