Obesity as a Protected Class: New York City Mayor Says Yes

On Friday, Mayor Eric Adams of New York City signed a bill that designates obesity as a legally protected class, expanding the scope of anti-discrimination laws in the city. The newly enacted legislation ensures that individuals cannot be discriminated against based on their height and weight when it comes to employment opportunities or access to public housing.

During the signing ceremony, Mayor Adams expressed his conviction that a person’s height and weight should not be determining factors in their job search, social activities, or housing prospects. He emphasized the importance of equal access to employment, housing, and public accommodations, regardless of a person’s appearance. By enacting this bill, the New York City government aims to promote fairness and inclusivity in society.

New York City’s Commission on Human Rights will investigate all reported cases of weight discrimination thoroughly. While there have been concerns raised about potential abuse of this legislation, with some fearing an increase in lawsuits, Mayor Adams and his administration remain committed to addressing weight-based discrimination effectively.
According to Adams, the passing of this legislation is indicative of the evolving public policy landscape, which often follows cultural shifts and societal awareness.

In recent years, obesity has gained recognition as a protected class within the framework of left-wing social justice standards. This recognition has been supported by influential figures such as Lizzo, who champions body positivity and challenges prevailing norms. In order for social justice advocacy to truly succeed, it must address the underlying causes of obesity as well, including the food industry’s role in driving obesity rates, particularly among black Americans.

As a San Francisco-based author and activist, Virgie Tovar sheds light on the challenges faced by fat people and how they are often scapegoated by society in her book “You Have the Right to Remain Fat.” Tovar argues that fatphobia is a new form of classism and racism, perpetuating the underrepresentation of fat individuals in various spheres, including the workplace, academia, and mass media.

With obesity rates continuing to rise, more and more people with disabilities have difficulty performing physical labor in the workplace. This underscores the importance of considering diverse needs in the workplace and providing reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. All of this will cost employers and businesses more money, and this will eventually be passed on to consumers as companies try to remain profitable.

Overweight airline passengers have been advocating for changes in airline policies to better accommodate obese travelers. Online petitions have circulated, urging airlines to offer free seats and larger bathrooms to ensure the comfort and safety of obese passengers. In response to these concerns, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) updated weight guidelines for aircraft in 2021, acknowledging the changing demographics of passengers and their accompanying luggage since the last update in 2005. Airlines have yet to redesign cabins or allow free sets; however, if this becomes more commonplace as the left is hoping, more workplace and general service changes will need to be updated, all of which the customer will be charged for.

While the left view obesity as a potential source of discrimination, they need to recognize that the American Medical Association (AMA) labeled obesity as a disease in 2013. AMA defined obesity as “a complex, multifactorial chronic disease of energy imbalance resulting in excessive body fat.” The AMA’s decision was based on the understanding that obesity has significant physiological, metabolic, and hormonal implications that can contribute to various health conditions and complications.

Can New York City effectively ensure the new legislation, or are they just setting up businesses for a whole new slew of lawsuits and forcing consumers to pay more for goods and services? It remains to be seen. The left and Adams need to address obesity’s root cause, and they may be better served to promote exercise and encourage New Yorkers to make healthy food choices to defeat obesity.