Bill banning weight discrimination passes New York City council, heads to Mayor Adams

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New York City council members passed a bill Thursday night to ban weight discrimination, sending the legislation to the Mayor Eric Adams' desk for signing.

During Thursday night's meeting, 44 of the city's 51 present council members voted yes to the bill.

The bill would stop businesses from discriminating against people based on height or weight when considering them for employment, housing and public accommodations.

Written into the bill are exemptions for businesses that need to consider height or weight during the hiring process. However, that only applies for companies required to do so by federal, state or local laws, or areas where the Commission on Human Rights allows these considerations.

For example, if height or weight may prevent a person from completing tasks required by a job and there is no other alternative or the criteria is "reasonably necessary for the normal operation of the business," the bill would exempt companies.

Similar legislation has been explored in Massachusetts, where lawmakers said they'd add the words “height or weight, unless for the purposes of compliance with any established state, federal, or industry safety standard” to the state’s anti-discrimination laws, the Associated Press reported.

And lawmakers in New Jersey introduced a bill last year that would ban weight and height discrimination, the New Jersey Monitor reported.

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Supporters say people are denied jobs due to weight

City Council member Shaun Abreu, who represents Manhattan’s 7th District, sponsored the bill, said in a Facebook post this week that people with different body types are denied jobs and "their whole existence has been denied by a society that excuses size discrimination."

The issue is personal to him as he was treated differently once he gained 40 pounds during the pandemic, according to the New York Times. He told the outlet that people touched his stomach and commented on his weight.

At Thursday's city council meeting, he cited the New Yorkers impacted by size discrimination every year.

"We've heard from plenty of them," he said. "A luxury brand specialist was sent to the stockroom after giving birth because baby weight didn't fit the company image. A sales associate took some time off to care for her for her family and put on a few pounds. She was met with snide remarks and questions about her energy level when trying to reenter the workforce."

"With today's vote, New York City will become the largest municipality in the country and the world with these protections," he said. "With this bill passing today, we are going a long way towards changing the culture around weight."

During a vote on the bill, Civil and Human Rights chair Nantasha Williams said the committee first heard the bill in February and council members heard testimony from people who have had firsthand experiences with appearance-based discrimination.

"Preconceived notions and stereotypes surrounding someone's abilities or value based on their height or weight is not only unfair, but can also be incredibly harmful to a person's dignity and sense of self wealth," she said. "One of my goals as chair of this committee is to make New York City as equitable for everyone as possible. Equal access and opportunity should exist for all, regardless of appearance."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Weight discrimination bill passed NYC city council