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June 8, 2023

Height and Weight Now Protected Classes Under NYC Human Rights Law

New York City officials are adding new legal protections for private- and public-sector employees that will make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of an individual’s height, weight, or both.  

On May 26, 2023, New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed into law an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the city. Height and weight will be added to the list of protected classes that an employer cannot improperly take into consideration for purposes of employment matters. The NYCHRL currently prevents discrimination in the employment context based on an individual’s age, race, national origin, immigration or citizenship status, color, disability, gender (including sexual harassment), gender identity, marital status and partnership status, pregnancy and lactation accommodations, caregiver status, sexual and reproductive health decisions, religion/creed, uniformed service, and sexual orientation. If an employer violates the NYCHRL, an aggrieved individual can file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights or bring suit in state or federal court. 

The new amendment includes certain exceptions. For example, it includes an exemption for employers that need to consider height or weight in employment decisions where required by federal, state, or local laws or regulations or where the Commission on Human Rights permits these considerations because height or weight may prevent a person from performing essential requirements of a job and no alternative is available or this criteria is reasonably necessary for the normal operation of the business. 

The City of Binghamton, New York, also has height and weight protections in its Human Rights Law. While the New York State Human Rights Law does not currently include protections for individuals based on height and weight, it does offer many of the same protections as New York City’s Human Rights Law. New York State provides protections in the employment context for an individual’s age, race, creed, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, and status as a victim of domestic violence. 

The amendment to the NYCHRL takes effect on November 22, 2023. 

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Payne Horning, associate, at phorning@barclaydamon.com; Martine Wayne, associate, at mwayne@barclaydamon.com; or another member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Area.
 

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