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Height and weight bias: A growing protected status?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Lawmakers in Massachusetts are debating legislation that would make the state the second to prohibit job discrimination based on a person’s height or weight.

Federal law and many states ban job-related discrimination based on an employee or applicant’s race, religion, gender, age, national origin and disability status. Several states ban job bias against gays and lesbians. But, so far, Michigan is the only state that includes weight and height in its anti-discrimination law.

Other states will be watching the Massachusetts bill and could follow with their own versions if it’s successful. The bill doesn’t specifically define how “short” or “fat” someone would have to be to be protected.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Byron Rushing, a Boston Democrat, said a person’s size is “one of the last physical aspects of people that you can acceptably laugh about."

Republican analyst Todd Domke fears passage of the new protections would scare off businesses from the state. He was quoted by AP as saying, “We might as well add colorblind, left-handed, allergic-to-cashews, and get it over with.”

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