The New York City Council passed a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against height and weight in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
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Victoria Abraham graduated from New York University last year, ready to enter the job market. She is a self-proclaimed “fat activist” who has found her voice as a content creator online, but has concerns about applying for new job.
“Walking into a job interview as a fat person, I’m already at a disadvantage,” said Victoria Abraham. “I know that whatever my qualifications are, my weight is a con.”
But on Thursday, the New York City council passed a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against height and weight in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
“I know that at least when I get a job, if I’m experiencing this discrimination, I have someone supporting me. I have the support of the government; I have legal protection where there wasn’t any before,” said Abraham.
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Only six other cities and one state have similar laws protecting Americans against height and weight discrimination: Binghamton, New York; Madison, Wisconsin; Urbana, Illinois; Washington, DC; San Francisco and Santa Cruz, California; and Michigan.
Weight discrimination is widespread, but hits women the hardest – particularly women of color.
Women considered obese earned $5.25 less per hour than women considered normal weight, according to a Vanderbilt University study. Discrimination based on weight is also comparable to the levels of racial discrimination in the United States, according to the American Journal of Public Health.
“It’s not only protecting people in the workplace from this or in getting apartments, but it’s also about changing culture,” said Shaun Abreu, a New York City Councilman, and the lead sponsor of the bill.
Abreu said a version of the bill existed before he came on board. But after facing his own weight discrimination, he took the lead.
“Just recently someone who I considered to be a friend came up to me and touched my stomach and said, ‘we’re getting bigger there buddy.’ And it just speaks to the toxic culture that exists in the United States when it comes to people that are above their average peers weight,” said Abreu.
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