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February 8, 2024

Legal News

February 8, 2024

Understanding New York City's Height and Weight Discrimination Law

by Jaleel Menifee

The amendment to New York City's Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), which went into effect on November 26, 2023, marks a significant step in combating discrimination based on height and weight. This law places New York City alongside other jurisdictions like Michigan and cities such as Binghamton, Madison, and San Francisco, which are actively addressing size discrimination.

Scope of the Law:

Under this law, discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on actual or perceived height or weight is prohibited. This means that employers cannot base employment decisions, housing providers cannot restrict housing opportunities, and public accommodations must not limit access to facilities and services based on these attributes. Moreover, job advertisements setting height or weight limitations are generally not allowed, with certain exemptions.

The law acknowledges exemptions, including scenarios where height or weight considerations are mandated by law or regulations, or are essential for specific job categories. Additionally, affirmative defenses are available for employers. These include situations where a person's height or weight genuinely hinders job performance and no reasonable alternatives exist, or where such criteria are vital for the entity's normal operations.

Implications for Employers:

Employers in New York City should reassess and update their employment policies. Height and weight discrimination must be included in equal employment opportunity and anti-harassment policies. Hiring materials and training programs should be reviewed for compliance. The amendment encourages a shift towards more inclusive employment practices, emphasizing evaluation based on skills and performance rather than physical appearance.

Employers should eliminate height and weight criteria from their hiring processes unless necessary for business operations. It's crucial to ensure that handbooks, training, and policies align with this new state law. Consideration should also be given to how these protections extend to customer and client policies in public accommodations.

The inclusion of height and weight as protected categories in the NYCHRL is a progressive move towards ensuring fairness and equality in various aspects of city life. It underscores the importance of assessing individuals based on merit rather than physical characteristics, fostering a more inclusive and diverse environment in New York City.

The attorneys at Outside Legal Counsel LLP specializes in all employer-employee related matters and represent both employers and employees. Our aim is to ensure that all employment-related decisions are made with an eye towards avoiding liability. Please reach out to us for more information about our services and how we can help you navigate this rapidly changing landscape.

This is not legal advice and is attorney advertising.

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