On May 26th, New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed into law amendments to the City's anti-discrimination/anti-harassment statute (the NYC Human Rights Law) which will add "height" and "weight" to the growing list of protected characteristics under the law. The amendments to the law will go into effect on or about November 22, 2023 (within 180 days). As our blog post outlines more fully, this is a significant development for NYC employers given the City law’s broad prohibitions that cover not only traditional employees, but also applicants, independent contractors, and interns. The newly enacted amendments, do, however, permit employers to take individuals' height and/or weight into consideration in some limited instances, including where a person's height or weight could prevent the performance of their essential job functions, or where consideration of a person's height or weight is reasonably necessary for the execution of an employer's normal operations.
We shall see how anticipated guidance and regulations shape NYC employers' requirements here. But for now, employers are advised to start grappling with how these legal changes will impact their existing policies and procedures. Consideration should be given to reviewing and updating anti-discrimination and EEO policies, modifying harassment prevention trainings, and guiding HR professionals and managers through the new requirements.
The law is part of a growing national campaign to address weight discrimination, with lawmakers in New Jersey and Massachusetts considering similar measures. Michigan and Washington State already prohibit it, as do some cities, like Washington, D.C.
New Yorkers testified at a City Council hearing earlier this year about being discriminated against because of their weight. A student at New York University said that desks in classrooms were too small for her. A soprano at the Metropolitan Opera said she had faced body shaming and pressure to develop an eating disorder.
Some business leaders and Republicans had expressed concerns about the bill, including Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a business advocacy group, who said that it could be an onerous mandate for companies and would place a burden on regulators and the judicial system.