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Proposed NJ Law Would Ban Employment Discrimination Based on Height and Weight

Proposed NJ Law Would Ban Employment Discrimination Based on Height and Weight

A New Jersey state senator in June introduced a bill that would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against someone because of their body size or shape.

The measure, Senate Bill 2741, would expand the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) to include height and weight as protected characteristics. If the bill becomes law, New Jersey would join Michigan as the only two states to extend legal protection to employees based on their height and weight. There are no federal protections for these characteristics in federal law.

The bill includes an exception that would allow employers to consider an applicant’s height or weight if “the height or weight of the individual is a bona fide occupational qualification.”

Federal and New Jersey laws have evolved over the years to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of certain characteristics. The NJLAD’s protected categories include race, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, familial status, marital status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information and mental or physical disability.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Andrew Zwicker, argues that employment discrimination based on body type is just as damaging as discrimination based on other characteristics. “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.

While we wait to see whether this new bill eventually becomes law, employees should know that even under current NJ law it may be possible for significantly overweight people to make a valid discrimination claim.

In a few past cases, the courts have rejected claims that obesity is a disability. However, obesity is often a symptom of underlying medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome and other diseases. Other people become overweight because a disability prevents most physical activity. In either case, if you believe you experienced hostile treatment at work because of your weight, it could be possible to file a discrimination claim under New Jersey or federal law.

At Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. our mission is to help people who have been victims of bias in employment. If you were refused employment, fired, demoted or treated in a hostile way and for reasons not related to your qualifications or job performance, call our lawyers to talk about it. Reach our Hackensack office by calling 551-245-8894 or contact us online to arrange a confidential meeting.

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Neil H. Deutsch

About Neil H. Deutsch has been practicing law for over 35 years and is known as a skilled negotiator in employment and discrimination law. He believes in a bottom-line approach of risk analysis and cost effectiveness for his clients. "Case evaluation is something we take seriously," says Mr. Deutsch who seeks top net dollar for…

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Bruce L. Atkins
Senior Partner

About Bruce L. Atkins is regarded as one of New Jersey’s premier practitioners of employment and civil litigation. He has been selected to the New Jersey Super Lawyers prestigious list every year since 2005.  This honor, bestowed upon a recipient by the votes of his peers, is a powerful nod to the skill Mr. Atkins…

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Adam J. Kleinfeldt

About Adam J. Kleinfeldt joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in March of 2015.  He primarily represents individuals in employment litigations such as discrimination, retaliation, and whistle blowing matters.  He has extensive experience in all phases of the litigation process. Adam has obtained significant results for some of his clients, including a $525,000 jury verdict…

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Diane Englander Peyser

About Diane Englander Peyser joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in September 2018 where she represents employees in wrongful termination, retaliation, harassment, and discrimination matters. Prior to joining Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C., Diane represented clients in all aspects of employment law on behalf of employees involving unemployment appeals, claims of sexual harassment, LGBT discrimination,…

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Debra M. McGarvey

About Debra M. McGarvey joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in December 2019. She has extensive experience defending employees and employers in state and federal court in employment litigation matters. She has represented clients on various issues arising out of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA),…

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