New York City Mayor Eric Adams has signed legislation that bans discrimination based on body size, adding weight and height to the list of protected categories such as race, gender, and religion. The ordinance seeks to protect New Yorkers from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation based on their body size. While some business leaders have expressed opposition to the legislation, several U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wisconsin, have already banned discrimination based on weight and physical appearance.
Exemptions to the legislation include cases in which an individual’s height or weight could prevent them from performing essential functions of a job. Mayor Adams believes the ordinance would promote more inclusive workplaces and living environments that protect residents from discrimination while leveling the playing field for all New Yorkers. Many weight discrimination advocates hope that New York’s adoption of the ordinance will serve as a model for the nation and the world, and that this move will help to change attitudes about the subject.
Tigress Osborn, the chair of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, believes that New York City’s weight discrimination ban will have far-reaching effects and show that “discrimination against people based on their body size is wrong and is something that we can change.” While some have argued that the cost of compliance would become an onerous burden, Mayor Adams took a different view, saying, “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.”
Weight discrimination has been a contentious issue for businesses as more and more workers who are victimized for their weight launch lawsuits and other forms of legal recourse to fight back. Experts say that this new ordinance sends a strong signal that New York City will not tolerate weight discrimination in the workplace. Yet for some, it is still unclear how the legislation will affect hiring practices and discrimination suits in the long run. The ordinance will take effect in 180 days, on Nov. 22.