The legislation 'will help level the playing field for all New Yorkers, create more inclusive workplaces and living environments.'
It is evident that people's height, size, weight and shape are subjected to a certain amount of scrutiny and judgment. Although this is an issue that has lasting effects on people's mental health, it hasn't been acknowledged with the seriousness it warrants. New York City Mayor Eric Adams wanted to change this. On Friday, he signed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on body size—which includes weight and height—and adding it to the list of protected categories such as race, sex and religion.
According to ABC News, Adams said during a signing ceremony at City Hall: "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."
The Democrat, who wrote a book about reversing diabetes with a plant-based diet, added that the legislation "will help level the playing field for all New Yorkers, create more inclusive workplaces and living environments, and protect against discrimination." The ordinance, which shall be implemented from November 22 onwards, excludes situations in which a person's height or weight prevents them from performing the required aspects of a job.
However, the outlaw did receive some backlash. Some business leaders—including Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City—have criticized the bill for its potentially burdensome provisions. "The extent of the impact and cost of this legislation has not been fully considered," Wylde said in a statement.
Mayor Eric Adams is signing a bill to ban weight and height discrimination in New York City. He says it will make workplaces more inclusive, and people who are looking for a job shouldn’t be treated differently. pic.twitter.com/xFjAteoNWi— Emma G. Fitzsimmons (@emmagf) May 26, 2023
Discrimination based on body size and physical appearance is also banned in San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Madison, Wisconsin. Besides that, New Jersey and Massachusetts have introduced legislation to prohibit weight and height discrimination. Tigress Osborn, the chair of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, said the law “will ripple across the globe” and show that "discrimination against people based on their body size is wrong and is something that we can change."
JUST IN: After signing a bill banning height and weight discrimination in NYC, Mayor Eric Adams tells a reporter that, "Body type is not a connection to whether you're healthy or unhealthy." pic.twitter.com/Uh9zjq4Dbb— Forbes (@Forbes) May 26, 2023
While the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has federal laws that protect employees from being discriminated against at work because of their race, religion, sex, color, or gender identity, weight was not one of them. In fact, only one state, Michigan, protected employees from weight discrimination in the workplace, according to Lori Armstrong Halber, a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP in Warrington, Pennsylvania, reported SHRM.
It is worth noting that Washington, D.C., prohibits discrimination based on personal appearance, which could include weight, and the Americans with Disabilities Act may provide coverage for individuals who are morbidly obese, depending on the circumstances of the job, she added. "Regardless of whether weight is a 'protected class,' an employer that focuses on things other than an applicant's or employee's skills, abilities and experience is doing both the individual and itself a disservice," Halber said. "You could be missing out on an incredibly talented and engaging employee based on your bias. Employment decisions should be based on business reasons, not stereotypes or assumptions based on stereotypes."