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For a long time, issues of discrimination against gender or race have been frowned upon, and there are laws surrounding those who victimise people on those grounds. The role of a civil rights lawyer is to protect everyone regardless of any factors and ensure that they are not treated differently because of who they are. New York City has now passed a bill that makes discriminating against people based on the weight against the law. It is felt that this issue needs to be brought on par in just the same way as gender and race issues.
The stigma of being overweight is a problem in America, where over 40% of adults are deemed obese. The discrimination is seen involving women, in particular, being paid lower wages because they are overweight, but it has not gone unnoticed. Sean Abreu, who is a city councilman, spoke of his desire to see change, saying that people being discriminated against for their weight was a silent burden that many people carry. The bill was something he sponsored after gaining 18.1 kg over the lockdown period.
He explained that there was a distinct change in how people treated him, making him much more aware of what discrimination based on weight can do to people’s mental health. It is his view that the fact that nothing was in place to protect people from such discrimination only made things worse. He said, “They’re being discriminated against with no recourse, and society is saying that that is perfectly fine”. Other reported discrimination people have suffered because of their weight included being refused homes via landlords, having trouble getting seated at restaurants or in theatres, and being unable to partake in the bike-sharing program in the city because of the weight limits.
A Popular Change?
Out of the 49 councillors voting on the bill, 44 agreed that it was time for change and only five opposed it. There have been some concerns voiced, however, with Joseph Pirelli, the minority leader for New York City Council, saying it potentially opened the doors to everyone suing anyone at any time. He said, “I am overweight, but I’m not a victim. No one should feel bad for me except my struggling shirt buttons.”
New York City Behind the Times
However, it could be argued that New York City is somewhat behind the times. Michigan changed its laws in 1976 and prevented any workplace discrimination where wait was an issue and plenty of other cities. Have changes to legislation in the pipeline, including Washington DC and San Francisco. At a state level, there has also been a recent wave of new bills preventing discrimination based on weight, and this includes Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey and New York. In the last 20 years, the USA has seen a dramatic rise in the amount of people who fall into the obese category. In something up for changes, Councilman Abreu said, “We want this bill to send a message to everybody that you matter, regardless of if you’re above or below average weight.”