New York City Prohibits Discrimination Based on Height and Weight
On May 26, 2023, New York City enacted legislation to cover discrimination based on height and weight. The City joins the state of Michigan and five other U.S. cities that have enacted similar legislation. The law went into effect on November 22, 2023, so employers must ensure they comply by taking the steps noted below.
Scope of the New Law
The new law amends the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) by adding height and weight as protected categories in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
With respect to employment, the law protects not only employees, but also applicants, independent contractors, and interns from height and weight discrimination. All New York City employers with four or more employees must comply with the law.
Exemptions Under the New Law
Employers may take height or weight into consideration in employment decisions under one of the following exemptions:
- It is required by federal, state, or local laws or regulations;
- It is permitted by regulation adopted by the New York City Commission on Human Rights identifying particular jobs or categories of jobs for which a person’s height or weight could prevent them from performing essential requisites of the job and the Commission has not found an available alternative to allow the person to meet the essential requisites of the job;
- It is permitted by regulation adopted by the New York City Commission on Human Rights identifying particular jobs or categories of jobs for which height or weight criteria is reasonably necessary for the normal operation of the business.
Penalties for Discrimination
Employees can file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights or file a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court. Employers may be liable for compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs, and injunctive relief if found liable.
Next Steps for Employers
Employers should immediately update their anti-discrimination policies and employee handbooks to comply with the new law. In addition, supervisors, managers, and human resources staff should be informed of the change in law and given appropriate training. Further, employers considering using height or weight as one of the criteria in an employment action should consult an attorney for specific advice on protecting themselves from potential liability. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding these changes or need assistance reviewing and updating your employment policies and handbook.