New York City Council bans weight discrimination
The New York City Council made a significant decision on Thursday as it voted in favor of passing Int. No. 209-2022-A, a law that prohibits employment discrimination based on an individual’s weight or height. However, certain exceptions apply for employers who require height or weight considerations for essential job functions, as well as for operators or providers of public accommodations.
A study conducted by Vanderbilt University revealed that only a few other cities have laws in place to outlaw weight discrimination, including Urbana, Illinois; Madison, Wisconsin; Binghamton, New York; San Francisco; Santa Cruz, California; and Washington, D.C. The states of Michigan and Washington have also implemented similar legislation. The fight against size discrimination is becoming a new focus in the ongoing effort to eliminate workplace discrimination and promote diversity and inclusion.
The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), an advocacy group dedicated to combating size discrimination, expressed gratitude to the bill’s sponsor, Shaun Abreu, on Twitter. They encouraged their followers to reach out to legislators and sign a petition aimed at putting an end to body size discrimination.
The vote at the NYC City Council marks a historic moment. Once INT 0209 is passed (which is expected), NYC will establish #SizeFreedom by prohibiting height and weight discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Research has shed light on the prevalence of size discrimination in the workplace and its negative impact on employees. A recent survey conducted by ResumeBuilder revealed that over a quarter of respondents reported experiencing weight discrimination. This percentage rose significantly to 53% and 71% among self-identified overweight and obese respondents, respectively.
Data released in May by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) further corroborated these experiences. SHRM’s findings showed that half of people managers expressed a preference for interacting with “healthy weight” employees, while 11% admitted that obese individuals within their organizations were not treated fairly.
Beyond the implications for fostering a kind and inclusive work environment, this bias may also affect employee retention, with nearly three out of four workers who experienced such discrimination expressing a desire to quit.
Aside from allowing for height and weight considerations necessary for essential job functions, the law does not prevent employers from offering incentives that support weight management as part of voluntary wellness programs.
The passing of the New York City law may prompt other states to take similar action. Massachusetts and New Jersey are reportedly considering measures to address this issue.
The law received a decisive vote of 44-5 in favor. Although Mayor Eric Adams has not publicly committed to signing the bill, his office has shown support for the efforts to pass it. Councilmember Abreu is confident in Mayor Adams’ backing, as confirmed by multiple media sources.