A New York City ordinance enacted in May regarding height and weight discrimination has gone into effect. As of November 22, 2023, the law prohibits such discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. At the same time, there are some narrowly written exemptions to the law.
The Basics of the New York City Ordinance
To promote greater acceptance of individuals regardless of their weight and height, the city has banned discrimination on these bases. The law was signed in May and went into effect on November 22, 2023.
The new height and weight discrimination ordinance protects individuals from unfair treatment in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The ordinance is unique to New York City, although Binghamton has a similar rule. There is pending statewide legislation in the State of New York that would prohibit such discrimination.
Businesses, in particular, should be aware of how these rules may apply to them.
In general, New York City employers may not deny employment opportunities based on the height or weight of an employee. The same applies to prospective job opportunities extended to applicants. Similarly, any job advertisements that directly or indirectly set limits based on height or weight are not allowed.
An employer also may not take an adverse action against an employee based on that individual’s height or weight. Height or weight includes both actual and perceived qualities.
These rules also apply to housing and public accommodations. For instance, a restaurant may not engage in discrimination on the basis of weight or height. If you are unsure whether your company is subject to this ordinance, ask a New York business lawyer.
Exemptions to the Height and Weight Discrimination Rule
The ordinance is not an absolute prohibition on a company making employment decisions because of height and weight. It includes the following exemptions:
- Employers should consider weight or height in employment decisions when federal, state, or local laws or regulations require it.
- Weight and height can be considered when reasonably necessary for the normal operation of the business. This is subject to regulations that the City Commission is empowered to issue.
There are also affirmative defenses to allegations that a business has violated this rule. When defending these claims, it will be an affirmative defense if one of the following applies:
- The height or weight of the person prevents him or her from performing the essential duties of the job. There must be no alternative action that the business could reasonably take to allow the person to perform the duties. This means the absence of a reasonable accommodation.
- If the business’s decision, based on height or weight criteria, is reasonably necessary for carrying out its normal business operations.
How Our New York Business Law Attorneys Can Help You
Our team of New York business lawyers can advise as to the details of this new ordinance. For instance, we can explain whether your business is covered by the law and what exactly is prohibited.
We can also suggest best practices you may adopt to potentially avoid claims of height and weight discrimination. For instance, New York City employers should ensure that employees aren’t subject to workplace harassment because of height or weight. Lastly, we can defend your business in litigation concerning discrimination claims.
Don’t leave your company exposed to a possible lawsuit that can cost it substantial sums of money. Connect with Rosenbaum & Taylor today to find out more about this new ordinance.