The New York City Council has voted to pass a bill that will provide legal protection against discrimination based on physical appearance, specifically weight and height. Dubbed “appearance-based discrimination” by advocates, this new legislation, voted 44-5, is poised to redefine civil rights in the city.
New York City to pass bill protecting overweight people from ‘weight discrimination’: ‘Silent burden’ https://t.co/lh6ckex2GB
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The bill’s proponent, Council Member Shaun Abreu, drew parallels between this form of discrimination and other protected categories such as race, gender, and age.
“This will be a new protected category and a claim that you can bring before the Commission on Human Rights,” Abreu explained, defending the significance of this development. Per the bill, exceptions will be made if height or weight can be considered a “bona fide occupational qualification” or in cases where public health or safety is compromised.
Abreu emphasized that the primary aim of the law is to protect individuals whose weight has no bearing on their ability to perform essential job functions. “This law is designed to help those where weight has nothing to do with the essential job functions of a role,” he stated.
Supporters of the bill, including Victoria Abraham, a 22-year-old who describes herself as a “fat fab feminist,” championed the measure as a long-overdue safeguard for those affected by weight-related biases.
Abraham, who proudly identifies as a “fat fab feminist” on social media, spoke about the need for protection in a society where being overweight often leads to unfair treatment.
Walking into a job interview as a fat person, I’m already at a disadvantage. I know that whatever my qualifications are, my weight is a con,” she said in an interview with CNN.
While acknowledging in a ABC7NY interview that the bill may have some “gaps,” Abraham saw it as a crucial first step toward progress.
However, not all are convinced of the bill’s merits as critics worry that the bill could lead to a flood of lawsuits and frivolous claims.
Republican Council Member Joseph Borelli, himself overweight, raised concerns about potential misuse and abuse of the legislation. Borelli, while asserting that he does not view himself as a victim, humorously quipped, “no one should feel bad for me except my struggling shirt buttons.”
The bill is now awaiting Mayor Eric Adams’ signature, which is expected to happen in the coming weeks. If Adams signs the bill, New York City will join the ranks of progressive cities such as Washington, D.C., Madison, Santa Cruz and San Francisco, which have already taken steps to ban weight-based discrimination.