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Mass. Legislature considering law that would ban height and weight discrimination

Earlier this month, the Labor and Workforce Development Committee of the Massachusetts House voted in favor of a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of height and weight. The bill would add height and weight to the list of characteristics that employers already may not use to discriminate against employees, such as race, sex, and religion.

A doctor who testified in support of the bill said that he had treated countless patients who suffered from discrimination because of their weight. He testified that he thinks discrimination against overweight people has become socially acceptable because of the common misconception that obesity is a character flaw.

Maine and federal law do not ban discrimination on the basis of height and weight. However, if your employer has discriminated against you because you are morbidly obese, you may be able to pursue a claim for disability discrimination. Some courts have found that morbid obesity is a disability. Height and weight requirements can also be used to discriminate against women and people with disabilities which affect their height, such as people with dwarfism. If an employer requires employees to be tall, that requirement could be illegal because of its disparate impact on women (who are, on average, shorter than men) and people with disabilities like dwarfism.