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Home Forums General Ergonomics Topics Employer accommodations for bariatric employees

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    Here’s an interesting, if not controversial, question involving our “super-sizing” employees: Is an employer responsible to provide an expensive big and tall version of an ergonomic chair to a bariatric employee? Would this be considered a reasonable accommodation and/or a feasible expense for a mid-size employer with 200 employees. In addition, the employer provides ergonomic chairs to fit employees within the 5th and 95th %-ile range for hip breadth, based on anthropometric estimates for US adults aged 19-65 yrs. Larger people can certainly fit into these chairs, but the truly bariatric person is not able to use them unless the armrests are removed, and then the fit is noticeably inadequate.

    An additional question on the same subject: What chairs would you recommend for a 5’4″ bariatric female who needs a short cylinder and a 24″ wide seatpan, besides the BodyBilt Big and Tall, the Neutral Posture equivalent and the Reimers Metro, which I am all familiar with.

    Thank you in advance for your suggestions or thoughts on this subject.


    Rick Goggins

    Hi Jeannette,

    I can’t comment on reasonable accommodation or other ADA issues, and whether or not a special chair is a feasible expense is very dependent on the resources of the employer. However, I can say that supplying a chair that is rated for the weight of the occupant is a basic safety and health issue. At a previous employer, we had at least one case that I was aware of where a large employee was injured when a part of their (standard-sized) chair broke and dropped them to the floor.

    Take care,


    [private user]


    I compeletely sympathize with the 200 employee firm footing the cost for a special chair for a bariatric person (I think of them as weight-challenged; tall and not-so-tall people are height challenged). With ADA and the California Ergo Std. obviously the employer needs to address the bariatric employee.

    The cost for a chair should not be signficantly more than a standard chair! and I repeat…should not be!…..the issue is that casters, star-bases, gas cylinders and four-paddle mechanisms are warranted to 250lbs. for standard chairs. Reinforced chairs are warranted to 325lbs. and up. The wood under the foam (memory foam or not….remember, all foam has MEMORY so let’s not start a new thread; the wood needs to be reinforced wood for the seat pan and back support otherwise the bariatric person will break a chair.

    Vendors are quick to offer distributors “LIFETIME WARRANTIES”…. DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP with “lifetime warranties”…..it only means that the manufacturer will replace BROKEN CHAIR PARTS…..they won’t do anything for your client who may have a BROKEN EMPLOYEE (cracked scull from hitting a credenza or cracked tooth from hitting the desk) and a WORKERS’ COMP. CLAIM to add to the misery!

    Discrimination at the workplace is a very touchy subject and weight plays into the discrimination issues. Most likely your 200 employee employer hired the person knowing they were bariatric so they take the risk; hopefully the on-site wellness coordinator can offer their services. I hope this is helpful.


    Carolyn Lundberg

    ACE Ergonomics


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