Sometimes all it takes is a well-placed comment to raise awareness, open eyes, and spur action. That’s exactly how New Jersey State Senator Andrew Zwicker (D-Middlesex) was moved to introduce a bill prohibiting weight- and height-based discrimination in the Garden State.

In discussing State Senate bill S2841, Zwicker recounts a conversation he had with a constituent who had explained the discrimination she faced as a result of her body shape. While New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, one of the country’s most progressive, provides protection against discrimination against race, origin, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, and nationality, it does not address the issues the woman had encountered.

Zwicker has proposed a simple amendment to existing law that would add four words — “of height or weight” — to the state’s already existing list of prohibitions against discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations, and public service. If the bill passes New Jersey would become the second state (after Michigan) to take the notable action.

In an interview, Zwicker explained why the amendment is important. “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. That’s just wrong.”

The need for protection against weight- and body shape-based discrimination has been borne out by numerous studies linking obesity to risk of harassment, lower wages, fewer hiring opportunities, and fewer opportunities for promotion. Zwicker acknowledges that there are some situations where height and weight restrictions are necessary, and has included those exceptions in his proposed bill, which is currently awaiting consideration in the Senate Labor Committee.

If you or someone you love has been a victim of discrimination on the basis of height or weight, the proposed bill offers hope for much-needed change. For more information on how our employment discrimination attorneys can help you, contact us today to set up an appointment.