A bill recently filed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, if passed, would prohibit discrimination on the basis of height and weight. The proposed legislation would add height and weight to the list of protected classes covered by the Commonwealth’s antidiscrimination law (G.L. Chapter 151B) and public accommodation laws (G.L. Chapter 272, Sections 92A and 98).
Currently, Michigan is the only state that has a law prohibiting discrimination based on height or weight in private employment. (Kansas has a law that prohibits discrimination based on height in public employment other than firefighters.) Some municipalities, including San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have ordinances protecting against discrimination based on physical size.
While some might be quick to criticize proposals to create protected classes for height and weight, proponents of the idea point to studies reflecting that the employment prospects and income of shorter and heavier workers compares poorly to their taller and slimmer counterparts. Moreover, some suggest that employment decisions based on physical size, particularly weight, can be a pretext for more insidious discrimination based on race, ethnicity or gender. Indeed, while height and weight are not specifically protected under federal antidiscrimination laws, the EEOC discourages employers from using these factors in hiring, unless they are closely related to job functions, because discrimination on these bases is likely to disproportionally affect people who belong to groups that are otherwise protected.
It is still very early in the legislative session, so it remains to be seen if this legislation will gain traction and eventually become law.