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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Courts - Kentucky Supreme Court "to hear case involving iconic Louisville eatery"

Jason Riley reports for WDRB Louisville in a long story that begins:

By the time she was nine years old, Melissa Pennington weighed 200 pounds.

She had reached 425 pounds by 2007 -- on a five-foot-four frame -- when she claims she was fired from the iconic Wagner's Pharmacy near Churchill Downs because of her weight.

In a lawsuit filed that year, Pennington claimed it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee due to a disability. Her disability? Morbid obesity.

Seven years later, the Kentucky Supreme Court has agreed to hear Pennington's case, which attorneys say is the first of its kind in the state.

"This issue has not been decided in Kentucky," said Jacqueline Schroering, an attorney for Pennington. The question, Schroering said, is "if her condition is protected."

A Jefferson Circuit Court judge did not believe so and dismissed the case in 2011, ruling that obesity was not a state-protected disability because it is not caused by a "physiological condition" and that Pennington presented no proof of an "underlying physiological order."

Last year, however, the state Appeals Court overruled the lower court, pointing out that Pennington has suffered from morbid obesity most of her life and highlighted a deposition in the case in which a doctor testified that "morbid obesity" like Pennington's is caused by "unknown physiological abnormalities."

Wagner's appealed and, on Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and presumably decide if obesity should be considered a disability in Kentucky. * * *

Wagner's has claimed that Pennington was fired for failing to generate sales as their food truck operator on the backside of Churchill Downs. But her supervisor testified she was told to dismiss Pennington because of her "personal appearance," according to court records. Two employees claimed they were told by the supervisor that Pennington was fired because she was "overweight and dirty."

While it is easy to fire employees in Kentucky – for their clothes, personal hygiene or piercings, for example – a person cannot be terminated because of a disability.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 24, 2014 01:19 PM
Posted to Courts in general