New York City recently passed a bill that would expand worker protections by preventing discrimination on the basis of height and weight. When Mayor Eric Adam signs this bill, which is expected sometime soon, it’ll become effective six months later.
Just as race, national origin, gender, and disability are protected classes, height and weight will be a protected class in New York City as well. This means that New York City employers won’t be able to discriminate against applicants and employees based on their actual or perceived weight or height. Moreover, this city ordinance will prohibit such discrimination in housing and public accommodations, too.
However, this bill includes notable employment exemptions, including:
- where preferential treatment on the basis of height or weight is required by federal, State, or local law;
- if height or weight could prevent an individual from performing the essential functions of the job; or
- if a certain height or weight of a candidate or employee is reasonably necessary for the normal operation of the business.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights is charged with identifying jobs that fit into the exceptions.
In most cases, height and weight haven’t been a protected class under New York or federal law. Only the State of Michigan and a handful of cities including Binghamton, New York have height and weight on their lists of protected classes. Currently, lawmakers in Massachusetts and New Jersey are considering similar measures.
Of note to our employers across New York State, the City of Binghamton’s ordinance is referred to as the Binghamton Human Rights Law. It protects the right of people to be free from discrimination based on a variety of characteristics such as age, race, religion, sexual orientation, and weight or height.
As a result of the likely signing of this bill, New York City employers will need to comply with a new mandate and revise their discrimination policies. Employers across New York are well-advised to keep an eye out for new ordinances banning discrimination on the basis of weight and/or height. We’ll be sure to keep an eye out too.
Reach out any time if you’re an HR professional or business owner and you have questions about this new ordinance or any other employment matters.
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