- The New York City Council on Thursday voted to pass a law, Int. No. 209-2022-A, banning employment discrimination based on a person’s weight or height.
- The bill exempts employers that need to consider height or weight in the performance of essential job functions and by operators or providers of public accommodations.
- According to a study by Vanderbilt University, only a handful of other cities outlaw weight discrimination: Urbana, Illinois; Madison, Wisconsin; Binghamton, New York; San Francisco; Santa Cruz, California; and Washington, D.C. The states of Michigan and Washington also have such laws.
Size discrimination may be the next frontier in the effort to eradicate workplace discrimination — and the next stage of D&I work.
The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, an advocacy group that works to oppose size discrimination, expressed its gratitude to the bill’s sponsor, Shaun Abreu, on Twitter and urged followers to contact their legislators and sign a petition to end body size discrimination.
Today is the history-making vote in the NYC City Council! When INT 0209 passes the Council today (and it will!), NYC will affirm #SizeFreedom by outlawing height & weight discrimination in employment, housing, and public accomodation. #signthepetition at https://t.co/FVmP9AISMk pic.twitter.com/eTVIqgbsIa
— NAAFA (@NAAFAofficial) May 11, 2023
Size discrimination in the workplace is gaining more attention as research reveals how common it is for employees to report negative effects. In a recent survey from ResumeBuilder, for example, more than a quarter of respondents said they’d experienced weight discrimination, and that number jumped dramatically — to 53% and 71%, respectively — when narrowed down to self-identified overweight and obese respondents.
May data released Monday by the Society for Human Resource Management seemed to confirm these experiences. SHRM found that half of people managers said they preferred to interact with “healthy weight” employees, and 11% said obese people at their organization are not treated fairly.
Beyond its implications for kind and inclusive workplace behavior, the bias may have an impact on retention: Nearly 3 in 4 workers who said they’d experienced such discrimination said it made them want to quit.
In addition to allowances for height and weight considerations that impact the performance of essential job functions, the law does not prevent employers from offering incentives that support weight management as part of a voluntary wellness program.
The New York law passed by a vote of 44-5. While Mayor Eric Adams has not committed publicly to signing the bill, his office has been encouraging of the efforts to pass it and Councilmember Abreu is confident in his support, according to multiple media sources.