No More Weight Shaming: New York City Law Protects People from Discrimination Based on Height and Weight
New York City has signed legislation prohibiting employers from discriminating against a person based on their height or weight. The law will come into effect on November 22, 2023.
In May 2023, New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, signed the bill into law, which bans discrimination because of a person’s height or weight in opportunities of employment, housing, and access to public accommodations.
Mayor Adams said:
“We all deserve the same access to employment, housing, and public accommodation, regardless of our appearance, and it shouldn’t matter how tall you are, or how much you weigh. When you’re looking for a job and you’re out on our town, or you’re trying to get some form of accommodation or apartment to rent, you should not be treated differently, and this [law] prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s height or weight or any other physical appearance. It helps to level the playing field for all New Yorkers. It creates more inclusive workplaces and living environments and it protects against discrimination.”
Public comments described the new law as changing workers’ lives for the better and as signaling to leaders all over the world, the importance of creating equal opportunities and accessible communities for people of all sizes.
Are There Exceptions to the New York City Height and Weight Discrimination Ban?
There are some limited exemptions in cases where an individual’s height or weight would prevent them from performing essential requirements of the job. The new law will create an exemption for employers needing to consider height or weight in employment decisions only where required by federal, state, or local laws or regulations, or where the New York City Commission on Human Rights permits such considerations because height or weight may prevent a person from performing essential requirements of a job and no alternative is available, or this criterion is reasonably necessary for the normal operation of business.
Height and Weight Discrimination – A Deeply Ingrained Prejudice
Historically, people who are visibly overweight or have non-conventional heights have faced systemic and deeply ingrained prejudice. These individuals have often been unjustly limited in their professional opportunities due to overt bias, subtle microaggressions, and being judged by their physical appearance rather than their abilities. Weight and height discrimination is more than just a workplace issue — it’s a societal injustice that perpetuates harmful stereotypes and a narrow and exclusionary definition of ‘professionalism.’
Few states explicitly prohibit height and weight discrimination in employment. Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act specifically outlaws such, and the Washington Supreme Court has recognized obesity as a protected class under the state’s Law Against Discrimination. Some cities have also enacted similar laws including Binghamton, New York; San Francisco, California; Santa Cruz, California; Madison, Wisconsin; and Urbana, Illinois. In some of these cities, laws prohibiting discrimination based on physical characteristics include both height and weight discrimination.
The new law banning weight and height discrimination in NYC, is a monumental step forward in recognizing the rights and worth of all individuals, irrespective of their size. As we move towards a more inclusive society, it’s essential that we dismantle these outdated prejudices and create environments where talent and capability take precedence over appearance.
We understand that facing discrimination at work can be a difficult and stressful experience. If you are facing discrimination based upon your weight, it will be important to speak with a NYC weight discrimination lawyer. We are here to help you through this process and to fight for your rights. Please contact us today at 1-212-766-9100 or [email protected].
Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser, LLP is located at 535 5th Avenue, 4th floor, New York, NY 10017. We offer initial phone and Zoom consultations to determine how we may assist you. No one should face discrimination at work. Step up and fight for your right to be equal.