On May 26, 2023, Mayor Eric Adams signed legislation that prohibits discrimination due to a person’s weight or height in employment, housing and public accommodations. Int. 209-A-2022 was sponsored by Council Member Shaun Abreu.
The bill allows for an exception for employers who need to consider height or weight where required by federal, state, or local laws or regulations, or the City Commission on Human Rights permit where height or weight may prevent an employee from performing essential job requirements.
In addition, the bill permits consideration of height and weight by providers and operators of public accommodations, who will have an affirmative defense that their actions were reasonably necessary for normal operations.
Mayor Adams stated, “No one should ever be discriminated against based on their height and weight. We all deserve the same access to employment, housing, and public accommodations, regardless of our appearance. It shouldn’t matter how tall you are or how much you weigh when you’re looking for a job, are out on the town, or trying to rent an apartment. This law will help level the playing field for all New Yorkers, create more inclusive workplaces and living environments, and protect against discrimination. I want to thank Councilmember Shaun Abreu for introducing this legislation, and Speaker Adams and Councilmember Nantasha Williams for their support of the bill.”
Council Member Abreu stated, “Size discrimination is a social justice issue and a public health threat. People with different body types are denied access to job opportunities and equal wages — and they have had no legal recourse to contest it. Worse yet, millions are taught to hate their bodies. As the global beacon of tolerance, it is only right that New York City is leading the national effort to end size discrimination with the signing of this law today. Over fifty years ago, hundreds of body positivity activists gathered in Central Park to protest the daily injustices faced by heavier people. While it took way too long to enact something so basic and widely supported, it is only fitting that the most diverse New York City Council in history is the one to enshrine this anti-discrimination principle into law, in the very city where this movement began. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to all the people who shared their stories of dealing with this silent burden, the organizations who helped spearhead this campaign, and all the advocates who helped push this over the finish line.”
Eno Awotoye, coordinator for the Retail Action Project stated, “This is a huge victory for New York City workers, because no longer will workers be forced to fit some mold in order to be able to make a living. New York City workers can now pursue job opportunities and seek advancement without the fear of being shut out because of their size. This is a new day for New York City workers — it’s about skills and experience, not size!”
Tigress Osborn, chair of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance stated, “This is such a powerful moment for anyone who has ever faced discrimination simply because of the size of their body. When the mayor of one the most iconic cities in the world agrees that size discrimination is unacceptable, it sends a message to leaders all over the country, and all over the world, that creating equal opportunities and accessible communities for people of all sizes should be a priority.”
The bill takes effect 180 days after it becomes law.
By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)