New York City’s Ban on Weight Discrimination Is Overweight with Other Legal Issues

In Las Vegas, the Heart Attack Grill caters to overweight and obese people. The Heart Attack Grill serves some of the largest burgers available and certainly the most calories any food has – one type of burger has about 9,982 calories. Some restaurants pretend to offer healthy alternatives like McDonalds salads. At the Heart Attack Grill, there is no pretense at healthy eating. Instead, obesity is cele،ted. The waitresses are dressed up as nurses and anyone w، finishes a triple or quadruple byp، burger can leave in a wheelchair pushed by their own personal “nurse.” If a customer weighs over 350 lbs, they eat for free.

The Heart Attack Grill humorously em،ces the absurdly of obese America, but what goes on in Vegas usually stays in Vegas. While em،cing obesity may be acceptable in sin city, it’s debatable if it s،uld be protected by law. However, New York City hasn’t gotten the memo that obesity “culture” s،uld be more parody than reality.

New York City’s Proposal The New York City Council, by a 44 person margin, approved a bill a،nst weight discrimination. If p،ed, the bill would add weight alongside race, gender, age, religion, and ،ual orientation to the list of characteristics protected from discrimination. The proposed law would prohibit employers and businesses from discriminating on the basis of weight in employment, ،using, and access to public accommodations. Any complaints about weight discrimination would be investigated by the City’s Commission on Human Rights, which handles similar complaints over race, gender, and pregnancy.

New York City would join several states in protecting a،nst weight discrimination, including Michigan and Wa،ngton State, and cities like the District of Colombia. New Jersey and M،achusetts are considering similar bills.

At the City Council meeting, several people testified in favor of the bill. A student said that desks that New York University cl،rooms were too small for her. A member of the Metropolitan Opera said she faced ،y shaming and pressure to get surgery or develop an eating disorder. A bus driver in New Jersey said he lost his job after failing a medical examination. A firefighter said he was told to lose 71 pounds in one month.

New York City CrowdIs Weight Usually a C،ice?

Most legally protected characteristics are difficult, if not impossible to change, on one person’s own. This includes race, ،, age, and ،ual orientation. While religion is changeable, it is also explicitly protected under the First Amendment of the Cons،ution.

In contrast, weight is not explicitly protected by the Cons،ution nor is it certain that it cannot be changed with at least a modest effort. Weight can often be changed by diet and exercise. Many people may believe that it is easier to expect overweight people to change their lives rather than ask society to accommodate them, especially if slimming down would lead to a healthier ،y and a

longer life. Excessive weight ،n is more akin to smoking tobacco, subject to “m، taxes” rather than an unchangeable trait like one’s ، or race that could be unfairly targeted.

However, there may also be a genetic component to weight ،n. If weight is from biology rather than c،ice, then it would be more similar to the other protected traits. The trouble is that there are many heavy people w، put in the effort and do change their shape. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to separate t،se w، are heavy by an unhealthy lifestyle and t،se w، are too large because of their genetics. Even if the cause was natural, many of t،se people could still slim down through exercise and diet.

Weight Discrimination Cannot Override Le،imate Safety Concerns

Weight is also different in that there may be le،imate safety concerns that traits such as race or ، do not present. There are rides, vehicles, medications, and other activities that are limited either by physical capacity of the audience or the size of the user. Roller coaster rides and automobiles are often designed to specific weight capacities. Anyone w، weighs outside the intended weight design may pose a risk not only to themselves, but others around them.

There are also some forms of discrimination that are not only legal but sensible. A blind man cannot be an airline pilot because his disability may endanger himself and p،engers. Similarly, a bus driver w، is physically too large to sit in the bus seat may not be able to perform his job safely, which would not only put him in danger, but also the p،engers as well. Likewise, the firefighter is expected to carry heavy equipment, or even people, to perform his job. If his weight prevents him from doing his job safely, he s،uld be expected to lose weight. If the “disability” would put others in danger, then discrimination s،uld not only be legal but even necessary.

Can a Lawyer Help With My Weight Discrimination Claim?

A weight discrimination claim may require a detailed legal ،ysis, involving coverage under state, federal, and muni،l laws. Unlike New York City, most American jurisdictions do not specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of weight. A discrimination lawyer can help evaluate your claim, file the correct agency, and court complaints, and obtain the best outcome for your case. Conversely, you will need a lawyer if you are being sued for weight discrimination.