Mayor Eric Adams Signs Bill Banning Weight-Based Discrimination in NYC

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
May 26, 2023New York
Mayor Eric Adams Signs Bill Banning Weight-Based Discrimination in NYC
New York Mayor Eric Adams speaks at the Literacy Partners 2023 Gala at Cipriani South Street in New York, on May 1, 2023. (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Literacy Partners)

New York Mayor Eric Adams signed a bill on Friday prohibiting weight-based discrimination in the city.

“No one should ever be discriminated against based on their height and weight,” Adams said during a signing ceremony for Intro. 209-A. “We all deserve the same access to employment, housing, and public accommodations, regardless of our appearance. It shouldn’t matter how tall you are or how much you weigh when you’re looking for a job, are out on the town, or trying to rent an apartment.”

Intro. 209-A amends the New York City administrative code, adding the categories of “height” and “weight” to existing non-discrimination provisions in the city. These non-discrimination provisions apply to employment, housing, and public accommodation throughout New York.

“This law will help level the playing field for all New Yorkers, create more inclusive workplaces and living environments, and protect against discrimination,” Adams said.

The Legal Impact

The New York City Human Rights Commission will be responsible for investigating allegations of height- or weight-based discrimination under the new law. The commission is already tasked with investigating alleged discrimination on the basis of other identity categories listed under the city’s non-discrimination laws, such as age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, partnership status, etc.

The new law does include an exemption for employers that need to consider height or weight in employment decisions only where required by federal, state, or local laws or regulations, or where the city’s Human Rights Commission otherwise recognizes the height and weight non-discrimination protections could prevent a person from performing essential requirements of a job. The new law would provide a similar exemption opportunity for operators or providers of public accommodations.

Some people have sued, unsuccessfully, with claims of weight-based discrimination. Anthony Perilli, Jr. filed a lawsuit in Manhattan’s Supreme Court in 2015 after the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) told him he’d have to lose 71 pounds to qualify for a job.

NTD News asked Intro. 209-A’s sponsor, Shaun Abreu, to comment on how a case like Perilli’s might be considered under the new law. Abreu did not respond by the time this article was published.

In another case alleging weight-based discrimination, bus driver Corey Dickson sued in a New Jersey court following his being deemed unfit to drive after a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) medical examination. Dickson weighed between 500 and 600 pounds at the time. His legal action was unsuccessful.

The Push For Fat Acceptance

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was among the organizations that celebrated the New York City law on Friday.

“History is being made today in NYC! ⁠The Mayor has signed into law a bill to outlaw discrimination based on a person’s height or weight! This legislation will help millions and will be a catalyst for other cities to follow suit,” NAAFA wrote in a post on Twitter.

The NAAFA tweet included a link to a “Campaign for Size Freedom” petition it crafted with the Fat Legal Advocacy, Rights, and Education Project (FLARE), urging legislators to “support legislation opposing body size discrimination where you live.”

NAAFA was founded in 1969 and describes itself as “the world’s first documented fat acceptance organization.” FLARE was founded by Sondra Solovay, an attorney and author of “Tipping the Scales of Justice,” and co-editor of “The Fat Studies Reader.”

The Dove soap brand is also backing the “Campaign for Size Freedom.”

Joseph Borelli, the New York City Council’s Republican minority leader, has questioned allowing claims of discrimination based on one’s weight.

“I’m overweight, but I’m not a victim,” Borelli has said of the law. “No one should feel bad for me except for my struggling shirt buttons.”

Adams, who wrote a book detailing how he lost 30 pounds and lowered his cholesterol by switching to a plant-based diet, said at a press conference, “Everyone knows I’m a person that believes in health, so when you talk about not discriminating against someone because of their body type, it’s not fighting against obesity; it’s just being fair.”

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