Can a New York Employer Discriminate Based on Weight?

Can a New York Employer Discriminate Based on Weight?

Obesity is a major problem in the United States, and New York City is no exception. According to the American Medical Association, more than one in three American adults are obese and over two in three are overweight or obese. It is well known that obesity markedly increases the likelihood of developing a number of other very serious health problems including type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and stroke.

What is less well documented, but understood by many is that being obese also increases one’s likelihood of facing discrimination based on weight at work. The weight-based discrimination most acutely impacts obese women who on average receive $7 less per hour than their non-obese counterparts. Obese men make on average $2 less per hour than their non-obese counterparts.

Unfair? Absolutely! Illegal? It is less than clear. Neither New York nor federal law contains a direct prohibition for weight-based discrimination. It is important to understand what can be classified as discrimination, how to prove it, and what damages you can seek. There have been some pushes for legislation to that effect but none have gained enough traction to move forward. That being said, there are circumstances in which weight motivated discrimination can form the basis for a lawsuit on the grounds that obesity is a disability.

Is Obesity Discrimination Considered Disability Discrimination?

Under New York’s Human Rights Law (NYHRL) employers are prohibited from discrimination based on “disability.” A disability under the law is a “physical, mental, or medical impairment” and in the employment context, discrimination is prohibited only if “upon the provision of reasonable accommodations,” the employee can perform the job at issue “in a reasonable manner.” If you feel you are being treated unfairly due to your weight it’s best to speak with a New York employment lawyer as soon as possible.

Despite the many physical issues that accompany being overweight or obese, neither is in and of itself considered a disability. New York’s highest court in Delta Air Lines v. New York State Division of Human Rights expressly held that being overweight alone is a disability. The case made clear that whether being overweight or obese is a disability is determined on a case by case basis.

The court pointed to an earlier case, New York State Division of Human Rights v. Xerox, as the type of case where being overweight/obese could legitimately be declared a disability. At Xerox, a prospective employee was denied employment as a systems analyst because her medical examination found that she was “obese.” The court found this to be unlawful discrimination, noting that the employer had no right to deny the prospective employee employment simply because of “a possibly treatable condition of excessive weight.”

Additionally, since that case was decided in 1997, the American Medical Association has defined obesity as a disease. The growing weight problem in the United States is frequently referred to as an “epidemic,” a term that means widespread disease. In short, there is a trend towards recognizing obesity as a disease or disability and a growing recognition that, like other disabilities, it isn’t always easily cured by “self-control” or “diet and exercise.” This trend is likely to prove favorable for those seeking protection from employment discrimination on the grounds of obesity.

What To Do If You Have Been Discriminated Against Because of Your Weight in New York

If you have been denied employment or treated unfairly at your job because of your weight, contact Joseph & Norinsberg’s experienced New York employment discrimination attorneys at 212-227-5700 or info@employeejustice.com  to discuss your options.

2020-11-22T20:03:13+00:00July 22nd, 2015|Weight Discrimination|

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I am very amazed and pleased for the wonderful work Diego Barros did for me and our co-workers, speechless to see how wonderful and constructive everything work. First time with Diego Barros and i am totally impressed to have seen how great you have worked for all of us, i will totally recommend you to anybody who is in need of help without at doubt at all in all senses.

Mr. Diego helped me WIN and reach a great settlement. Wages recovered from lack of pay and serious misconducts from employer. He was very informative and easy to talk to every step of the way. Very happy with the settlement I received. He will go for the win and get you what you deserve! If you having problems with employment I give Mr. Diego my full recommendation to get your issues resolved.

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To have Bennitta Joseph who wins high profile cases against companies like Delta is a win for any company. The fact that they equip entrepreneurs like me with tools to compete with fortune 500 is a competitive advantage. If you are a company that deals with people and wants to succeed, hiring her is a must!

This was the first and hopefully my last lawsuit and the process wasn’t what I thought. The patience shown to me (even when I became frustrated) was great. Everyone showed respect, sensitivity, and I’d recommend the firm to everyone. Losing my job set me behind on several bills, but I can now pay them. The situation I went through will help me going forward.

This was the first and hopefully my last lawsuit and the process wasn’t what I thought. The patience shown to me (even when I became frustrated) was great. Everyone showed respect, sensitivity, and I’d recommend the firm to everyone. Losing my job set me behind on several bills, but I can now pay them. The situation I went through will help me going forward.

Bennitta Joseph is committed to Justice. After be wronged at work in 2015, and discriminated against I felt very hopeless and wronged. I felt as though I had no hope standing up to a corporate giant, and no chance of winning. After explaining my case and sharing the facts Bennitta felt differently. She did warn me it would be a long and tough road and that I had to have thick skin. In my experience if you take Bennitta’s lead and trust her legal experience no case it too big, or too small for her…

Me trataron muy bien y estoy satisfecho con el servicio. Inicialmente llamé para unirme a un caso anterior, pero cuando ya era demasiado tarde para unirme a ese caso, estaban felices de luchar por un segundo caso. No pensé que podrían hacer que otro caso funcionara, pero lo hicieron. Aprendí cuáles son mis derechos en cuanto a salario mínimo y tiempo extra y puedo usar esta información en el futuro. Recomiendo mucho la oficina.

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I am very amazed and pleased for the wonderful work Diego Barros did for me and our co-workers, speechless to see how wonderful and constructive everything work. First time with Diego Barros and i am totally impressed to have seen how great you have worked for all of us, i will totally recommend you to anybody who is in need of help without at doubt at all in all senses.
Ysaac G
Mr. Diego helped me WIN and reach a great settlement. Wages recovered from lack of pay and serious misconducts from employer. He was very informative and easy to talk to every step of the way. Very happy with the settlement I received. He will go for the win and get you what you deserve! If you having problems with employment I give Mr. Diego my full recommendation to get your issues resolved. 
D.F.
To have Bennitta Joseph who wins high profile cases against companies like Delta is a win for any company. The fact that they equip entrepreneurs like me with tools to compete with fortune 500 is a competitive advantage. If you are a company that deals with people and wants to succeed, hiring her is a must!
Karleen L.
This was the first and hopefully my last lawsuit and the process wasn’t what I thought.  The patience shown to me (even when I became frustrated) was great.  Everyone showed respect, sensitivity, and I’d recommend the firm to everyone.  Losing my job set me behind on several bills, but I can now pay them.  The situation I went through will help me going forward. 
Isaiah B.
I had an excellent experience with the firm and with Bennitta Joseph as my attorney. Everyone I dealt with was extremely courteous, friendly and very helpful. The settlement will help me financially as I look for a job.
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