New York City has passed a bill outlawing discrimination based on weight, joining a growing movement in the US to make size a protected trait on par with race and gender. The bill aims to address the widespread bias and stigma that people face due to their weight, especially women and people of color.
The bill, which received widespread support from the city council, would amend the city’s human rights law to add weight and height to the list of identifiers that are considered protected. It would make it illegal to discriminate against height and weight in housing, employment, and public accommodations, with some exceptions for jobs or situations where there is a public health and safety concern.
City Councilman Shaun Abreu, who sponsored the bill, said weight discrimination was “a silent burden people have had to carry”. He said he became more aware of the issue when he gained more than 40lb during lockdown and saw a shift in how he was treated.
“I know that whatever my qualifications are, my weight is a con,” said Victoria Abraham, a self-proclaimed “fat activist” who has found her voice as a content creator online. She said the bill would give her legal protection and support in case she faced discrimination in the job market.
More than 40% of American adults are considered obese and studies show weight stigma is pervasive. The bias can bring sharp costs, such as lower wages, especially for women. Women considered obese earned $5.25 less per hour than women considered normal weight, according to a Vanderbilt University study. Discrimination based on weight is also comparable to the levels of racial discrimination in the United States, according to the American Journal of Public Health.
“It’s not a health issue. It’s a civil rights issue,” said Tegan Lecheler, advocacy director for the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance, which worked with Councilman Abreu on the bill. She said the measure would “encourage a larger conversation of framing this beyond health”.
The bill is expected to be signed into law by New York’s mayor later this month. Only six other cities and one state have similar laws protecting Americans against height and weight discrimination: Binghamton, New York; Madison, Wisconsin; Urbana, Illinois; Washington, DC; San Francisco and Santa Cruz, California; and Michigan.
- New York City Council passes bill banning weight discrimination in jobs, housing, public accommodation | CBS News | May 11, 2023
- New York City passes bill banning weight discrimination | CNN Business | May 11, 2023
- New York City passes law barring weight discrimination – BBC News | BBC | May 11, 2023