Weight Controversies: Joseph

Weight Controversies: Joseph
An obese man who is suing McDonald's under the Americans with Disabilites Act explains his claims.
Joseph, 37, is a married father of five who claims that McDonalds refused to hire him because he weighs over 400 pounds. Now he's suing. Joseph says he went to a job fair and filled out an application, met with a McDonald's manager the next day, and was told he would be receiving a uniform in two or three days, at which time he would receive a phone call.

"He never called," says Joseph. After making several unsuccessful attempts to meet with the manager, he found out the manager had been transferred. "The new manager said he didn't know anything about anything. That's when I contacted a lawyer."

McDonald's was unable to have a representative appear on Dr. Phil but did provide the following statement:

"McDonald's will not tolerate discrimination of any kind in any of its restaurants. We disagree with the claims made in this case. Meanwhile, because this is a matter pending before the courts, it would be inappropriate to discuss it further."
— McDonald's Restaurants of Connecticut
Dr. Phil speaks with Joseph's attorney, Gary Phelan, via satellite. Mr. Phelan has filed a suit in federal court under the
Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Connecticut state law.

"This is really interesting because first off, you are the first to be able to prevail under the federal act, the Americans
with Disabilities Act," says Dr. Phil. "Also, you've gotten this acknowledged by the Connecticut courts as well?"

"Actually, we're one of the first," says Mr. Phelan. "There have been about five decisions in the country that have held that morbid obesity may be perceived or regarded as a disability. But we are the first case in Connecticut that has recognized morbid obesity as a disability."

"And that's the important step, right?" asks Dr. Phil. "We've had the Americans with Disabilities Act for a good time but to say that obesity is a compensable disability is an important acknowledgement for people who face that kind of problem."
"It is," says Mr. Phelan. "Overwhelmingly, courts have rejected that argument. So the fact that we've prevailed to this point doesn't mean that others necessarily will."

"At this point, what is the status of the case and where do you go
next?" asks Dr. Phil.

"Now that the court has recognized that he does state a claim, we have to go through the discovery process and eventually a trial, probably in about two years or so," explains Mr. Phelan. "We're very much looking forward to it. I think that Joseph will set a major precedent for people with morbid obesity and I'm proud of him for standing up for himself."

"I am as well," says Dr. Phil. "Obviously, I have no opinion on whether or not Joseph was discriminated against. I wasn't there. I don't know who said what to whom. But I do know this: [Joseph], you have always worked, you have always sought work, provided for your family, and you were willing to take a job that was below your skill level because you said, 'A man's got to do what a man's got to do.'"