Why it matters
The law is part of a growing national campaign to address weight discrimination, with lawmakers in New Jersey and Massachusetts considering similar measures. Michigan and Washington State already ban it, as do some cities, such as Washington, DC
New Yorkers testified at a City Council hearing earlier this year about being discriminated against because of their weight. A student at New York University said desks in classrooms were too small for her. A soprano at the Metropolitan Opera said she had faced body shaming and pressure to develop an eating disorder.
Some business leaders and Republicans had expressed concerns about the bill, including Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a business advocacy group, who said it could be a burdensome mandate for businesses and would burden regulators and the justice system.
Obesity has increased in the United States over the past two decades, and more than 40 percent of American adults are considered obese.
The body acceptance movement and self-described fat activists have tried to reduce bias and shame around weight. Podcasts like “The Maintenance Phase” have spread awareness that not all overweight people are unhealthy and that diets often fail.
New York City has been a center of fat activism since at least the 1960s, when a crowd of 500 people staged a “fat in” in Central Park.
Tigress Osborn, president of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, a nonprofit advocacy group, said she hoped other cities would pass similar laws to send the message that size discrimination was a “serious injustice.”
The bill’s sponsor, Shaun Abreu, a councilman from northern Manhattan, said he gained weight during the pandemic and noticed people treated him differently. He said the law would make employers think twice about discriminating against heavier people and raise awareness of the problem.
“It’s also about changing the culture of how we think about weight,” he said.
Complaints about weight discrimination will be investigated by the city’s Human Rights Commission, which already investigates complaints about race, gender and other issues.
State lawmakers in New York are also considering a weight discrimination law. The city law comes into force in 180 days.