Currently, Michigan is the only state in the nation that prohibits discrimination based on height or weight under its civil rights law, and there is no such federal law.
New Jersey State Sen. Andrew Zwicker of D-Monmouth Junction would like to see the Garden State become the second in the United States to ban such biases in hiring, housing and educational practices.
“It’s a serious issue, and we don’t condone racial discrimination, gender discrimination, or age discrimination,” Zwicker said.
His bill (S2741), which was introduced June 2 and referred to the Senate Labor Committee, would categorize rejection based on height and weight under the state’s “anti-discrimination law.”
It’s something Zwicker said some other states or individual cities have come up with, but he was “shocked” to learn was not on New Jersey’s books.
He said studies have shown “widespread” discrimination specifically around weight, usually much more in women than in men, and he thinks it’s both harmful and hurtful.
“A study I saw said that between 20% and 40% of overweight people reported some sort of discriminatory behavior towards them,” Zwicker said. “Society put in these ideal sizes, these ideal weights, and those are just things that have been created, and not everyone fits that ideal. And so, people are treated differently.”
According to the wording of Zwicker’s proposal, Michigan law prohibits discrimination in “employment, education, housing, public housing, and public office,” among other grounds, and the senator hopes to cover the same ground. with the New Jersey bill.
Exceptions are provided for cases “in which an individual’s height or weight is a bona fide occupational qualification”, the bill says.
In short, Zwicker’s legislation would empower someone who believes they have suffered such discrimination to sue.
He cited an Atlantic City case years ago, in which a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by female casino workers who were weighed weekly and threatened with dismissal because there was no basis in New Jersey law to support their claims.
This bill, he said, would close that loophole.
“It’s more than common sense, it’s just the right thing to do, that’s why I wrote it and why I stand for it now,” Zwicker said.
Zwicker intends the legislation to take effect immediately if and when it is passed and signed by the governor.
Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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