New York City Poised to Ban Height, Weight Discrimination

Author: Emily Scace, XpertHR Legal Editor

May 24, 2023

Update: Mayor Eric Adams signed the height and weight discrimination ordinance on May 26, 2023. It takes effect November 22, 2023.

The New York City Council has passed an ordinance amending the city's civil rights law to add height and weight to the list of characteristics protected from employment discrimination.

Mayor Eric Adams, who has previously expressed support for the measure, is expected to sign. The law - which will apply to employers with four or more employees - will take effect 180 days after signature.

Exceptions apply if:

  • An employer's use of height or weight in making an employment decision is required by federal, state or local law;
  • A person's height or weight could interfere with essential job duties, and there is no reasonable alternative that could allow individuals not meeting height or weight criteria to perform these duties; or
  • Consideration of height or weight criteria for the particular job or job category is reasonably necessary for an employer's business operations.

The City Commission on Human Rights will issue regulations identifying certain jobs and job categories for which consideration of height and weight is specifically permitted. For jobs not covered by the regulations, an employer will still be allowed to defend against claims of height or weight-based discrimination by showing a legitimate business necessity for considering these attributes.

The law does not affect an employer's ability to offer incentives that support weight management as part of a voluntary wellness program.

At the state level, a bill banning weight discrimination was introduced in the New York State legislature in January but has not advanced.

A few other US jurisdictions, including Michigan, San Francisco and Miami Beach have enacted similar protections. In New York, the cities of Ithaca and Binghamton also prohibit height and weight discrimination.