The New York City Human Rights Law now prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s height, weight, or the combination of height and weight, referred to as “body size”. The law signed by Mayor Adams back in May 2023 went into effect on November 26, 2023, and gives these categories the same rights as other protected classes such as race, gender, sexuality, and age. New York City joins a small, but growing list of jurisdictions that have banned discrimination based on someone’s body size including Michigan; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco and Santa Cruz in California; Binghamton, New York; Urbana, Illinois; and Madison, Wisconsin.
According to the new law, violations of height, weight, and body size protections may occur when an employer engages in the following conduct:
- Refusing to hire or promote an individual;
- Offering different conditions of employment;
- Expressing, directly or indirectly, that an individual may or will be treated differently;
- Creating or permitting a hostile work environment; or
- Using harassing or offensive language.
Employers may still consider body-size-related criteria in very limited situations without violating the law. These narrow exceptions require employers to demonstrate that it is strictly necessary to do so by demonstrates that (a) a person’s height or weight prevents said individual from performing core job functions, and there is no alternative action that the entitled body could reasonably take that would allow the person to perform said duties; or (b) the decision based on height or weight criteria is reasonably necessary for the execution of the employer’s normal operations.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights hopes that this amendment to the civil administrative code will help clarify the definition of unlawful discriminatory practices and better outline requirements for employers to stay in compliance with the law.
If you believe you have been discriminated on the basis of your height, weight, or body size, or need guidance on how to navigate changing legal requirements for your business, please contact the attorneys of Pechman Law Group at 212-583-9500.