NYC lawmakers wants to end weight, height discrimination at work

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Two New York City Councilmen want to make on-the-job fat-shaming a thing of the past with a new bill that aims to prohibit weight and height-based discrimination in the workplace.

The bill, which Councilmen Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) and Danny Dromm (D-Queens) introduced Thursday, would make it illegal for employers to base hiring decisions on weight or height. Landlords and property owners leasing or selling property would be held to similar standards.

“It’s time for New York City to join the dozens of other localities that have taken action to make weight and height-based discrimination unlawful, leading to lower rates of bias and stigma and an increased ability for all New Yorkers to live safe and fulfilling lives,” Lander, the bill’s prime sponsor, said in a written statement.

Similar laws have been in effect in Michigan, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Buffalo for years.

The new Council bill has its roots in those laws and a survey conducted by Lydia Green, who lives in Lander’s Park Slope Council district. In it, overweight respondents told Green they faced discrimination in school, doctors’ offices and on public transit.

“The idea for a weight discrimination bill came from my own experiences of being mistreated and dehumanized due to my weight and the similar stories I’ve heard my whole life from friends and family,” she said. “People of size face discrimination, harassment and bullying in almost every aspect of life.”

The fat-positive bill would also presumably protect skinny people, as well as short and tall people, if they’ve faced discrimination. It would enable them to bring their claims to the city Human Rights Commission to be investigated.

Lander, who will become the city’s next comptroller in January, suggested not all claims would necessarily be valid due to any variety of mitigating circumstances. The bill doesn’t spell out what situations may be exempt, but it does include a provision that would allow for exceptions to the prohibition.

When asked about whether certain physical labor might be exempt — like construction work on tall buildings or with heavy equipment — Lander said employers would have to demonstrate that they gave potential hires a fair shot.

“You can construct criteria for the job based on the ability to perform,” he said.

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