A significant change has gone into effect New York City effective on November 22, 2023 with an amendment to the city’s Human Rights law.
The key focus of this amendment is the prohibition of discrimination based on an individual’s height and weight in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
The law prohibits NYC employers — that is, employers with employees resident in NYC — from making such decisions.
The law specifically disallows employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants based on their actual or perceived height and weight. However, there are exceptions to this rule, allowing consideration in situations where height and weight are essential for job performance or are reasonably necessary for the employer’s normal operations.
The amended law permits employers to take into account height or weight when required by federal, state, or local law, or by regulations adopted by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Employers can also use height or weight criteria when it is integral to an employee’s or job applicant’s ability to perform essential job duties.
Employers facing alleged violations can assert affirmative defenses, claiming that a person’s height or weight prevents them from performing essential job duties or that height- or weight-based decisions are reasonably necessary for normal operations.
NYC is not the only jurisdiction where this has come into play but for employers with offices in NYC, it’s likely to be the first one that many employers have had to deal with. Note that several states are also considering legislation with similar prohibitions.