Employers Take Note: New York City Law Prohibits Discrimination Based on Height and Weight

On May 26, 2023, Mayor Eric Adams signed a bill into law amending New York City’s anti-discrimination statute to include height and weight among the list of protected classes. Accordingly, employers will now have to consider whether their job requirements, descriptions for employment, and hiring/termination practices, among other considerations, run the risk of discrimination based on an employee’s height and/or weight. The law is slated to impact New York City employers, but extends well beyond existing employees and implicates individuals in a broad range of roles (i.e. applicants, future employees, and independent contractors). The full text of the law can be found here.

The new law is effective 180 days following passage, making the effective date November 22 of this year. Importantly, the new law is not limited to employment. It also covers housing and public accommodation, and is among a considerable, growing trend throughout the United States to provide protections for physical characteristics and appearance. For instance, discrimination based on certain physical attributes such as weight and height are also prohibited in San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Madison, Wisconsin. New Jersey and Massachusetts have also introduced legislation prohibiting discrimination based on height and weight. New York State has followed suit and proposed a similar bill.

Notably, lawmakers have provided several exceptions to the law. For example, the law does not prohibit considerations based on height and weight where: (1) federal, state, or local laws or regulations require such a consideration, (2) an individual’s height and/or weight may prevent them from performing the essential functions of the job and no other alternative is available, and (3) the consideration of height and/or weight is a business necessity and essential for the normal operation of the business.

Although the effective date is November 22, 2023, and additional guidance from the NYC Commission on Human Rights is certainly forthcoming, it is recommended to begin compliance with the law as to avoid general pitfalls in the near future. For instance, employers should update their anti-discrimination and harassment materials (including handbooks) and trainings to include height and weight as protected classes. Employers should also review their job requirements and consider whether height and/or weight requirements are a business necessity, in addition to if any of the other exceptions to the new law would apply.

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Employment Notes, a newsletter produced by Tannenbaum Helpern Syracuse & Hirschtritt LLP’s Employment Law practice, provides insights on recent employment caselaw, legislation and other legal developments impacting employer policies, human resource strategies and related best practices. To subscribe to the newsletter, email

06.01.2023  |  PUBLICATION: Employment Notes  |  TOPICS: Employment

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