Are height and weight protected characteristics in New York?

Employees in New York are protected from discrimination based on age, gender, religion, race, color, sexual orientation, pregnancy, disability and genetic information. In May 2023, Mayor Eric Adams signed legislation that prohibits discrimination in employment based on height and weight in New York City (Intro. 209-A), adding them to the list of protected characteristics.

Here is what you should know about this law:

No more appearance-based discrimination

Many cases of appearance-based discrimination in the workplace happened without consequences because the law against it was unclear. Qualified candidates were denied employment because of their height and weight, and employees missed out on promotions and other opportunities. Additionally, millions were taught to hate their bodies.

Since these characteristics are now protected, employees and applicants can file a claim against employers if they are denied an opportunity because of their size.

Are there exceptions?

Employers who need to consider height and weight in employment decisions may be exempted from this law, provided their considerations are required by local, state and federal regulations or the Commission on Human Rights permits such considerations.

For example, if a movie character should be of a certain height/weight, based on the story, a casting director may be allowed to only consider applicants with a particular body size.

An employer must prove two elements to be exempted:

  • A person’s height or weight could prevent them from performing the required duties, and no alternative is available
  • Considering height and weight is reasonably necessary for the normal operation of the business

Intro. 209-A, signed by Mayor Adams, will change the lives of many workers in New York City.  If an employer discriminates against you because of your height or weight, you can take legal action against them to protect your rights.     

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