Lawmaker wants to make discrimination against weight, height illegal
"Discrimination can take on many different forms, sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit," Sen. Andrew Zwicker said.
Sen. Andrew Zwicker wants to make New Jersey the second state in the nation to ban weight and height discrimination, saying employers should not be able to discriminate against someone because of their body size or shape.
Zwicker (D-Middlesex) introduced a bill last week that would expand the state’s Law Against Discrimination to include weight and height as protected characteristics. Michigan is the only other state with a similar law, and there are no federal protections against discrimination due to weight and height.
He said he introduced the measure after a recent conversation with a constituent who mentioned discriminatory behavior she faced because of her body shape.
“Discrimination can take on many different forms, sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit. We focus so much on discrimination based on physical disability, as we rightfully should, but there is a more subtle type of discrimination based upon body size and shape,” Zwicker said in an interview. “That’s just wrong.”
Studies show heavier people face weight-based discrimination in the workplace, including fewer hiring opportunities, lower wages, and fewer promotions, and are at risk of more harassment from coworkers.
If the bill (S2741) passes, discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations, and public service based on weight or height would be illegal. Currently, the law prohibits discrimination against race, origin, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, and nationality.
Zwicker said he hopes the change would give someone who feels they were wrongfully terminated over their weight or height legal standing to challenge the action. He noted the bill has carveouts for certain professions where weight or height are a “ bona fide occupational qualification.”
Zwicker said he anticipates his colleagues from across the aisle supporting the bill.
“I would hope this is not a partisan issue or something that’s considered — and I think completely inaccurately — part of this ‘woke’ or part of this ‘cultural battle’ that we’re having right now,” he said.
The measure is pending in the Senate Labor Committee. It has no Assembly companion bill.
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