Society is continuing to evolve and, with it, so is our understanding of what things employers should be allowed to consider — and, more importantly, should not be allowed to consider — in making employment decisions. In New Jersey, those protected characteristics currently include gender, race, religion, ethnicity/national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and several others. If a new bill the New Jersey Senate becomes, that list will expand to include height and weight, as well. Whatever protected class you’re a member of, if you’ve endured illegal discrimination at work, you should act promptly to get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer.
Three years ago, this blog looked at the case of a Passaic County bus driver who pursued a hostile work environment case. The man lost because the alleged discrimination underlying that hostile environment was the result of the driver’s weight. The courts concluded that New Jersey law doesn’t recognize weight as a protected class and obesity alone doesn’t constitute a disability, even if that worker’s obesity was extreme. (The bus driver in Passaic County was a man who weighed 500-600 pounds.)
That rule could soon change. Andrew Zwicker, a state senator representing Middlesex County, proposed an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) that would add both weight and height as protected characteristics. The bill would include an exception that would allow employers to consider height and/or weight in situations where “the height or weight of an individual is a bona fide occupational qualification.”