Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Who is Protected by New York City’s Height and Weight Antidiscrimination Law
Authors: Reynolds, River
Advisors: McConnaughy, Corrine
Department: Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
Certificate Program: Global Health and Health Policy Program
Class Year: 2024
Abstract: On May 30, 2023, the New York City Council and Mayor Eric Adams passed Int 209 into law. Int 209 prohibits height and weight discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations and joins a handful of city and state civil rights laws against body size discrimination. This dearth of legal protection against height and weight discrimination stands in stark contrast with robust evidence that most Americans support the adoption of a weight antidiscrimination law, and that weight discrimination is pervasive, especially in the workplace. Fat workers are hired less, receive less pay, and are more likely to be passed over for promotions. The research does not reach a consensus on which groups are impacted the most by height and weight discrimination nor the extent to which public accommodations—such as restaurant chairs, bathrooms, and public transportation—are not accessible for some fat people. New York City Human Rights Law is written to protect against these forms of discrimination. While many scholars focus on documenting discrimination, how to implement antidiscrimination law, and the impacts of antidiscrimination law, the literature does not provide much empirical insight on who antidiscrimination law might fail. Implementing broad and transformative antidiscrimination law requires understanding who Int 209 has the potential to protect and who Int 209 actually protects. Evidence from this thesis supports the hypothesis that Int 209 protects employees from height and weight requirements, provides a recourse to members of the labor and fat rights groups that fought for Int 209, and decreases fat stigma, especially for women. Whether Int 209 makes public accommodations more accessible for all New Yorkers hinges on stakeholders’ implementation tactics. To test this hypothesis, this thesis uses a variety of methods, including public document analysis, elite interviews, media analysis, and an audit study of New York City restaurants. The analysis in this thesis builds upon Anna Kirkland’s theory of how to understand what differences between people are meaningful, Andrew Koppelman’s writings on how law can transform culture, and Jeb Barnes and Thomas Burke’s analysis of antidiscrimination law implementation. Findings from this thesis lead to four policy recommendations for the New York City Commission on Human Rights and fat rights advocates and allies seeking to proactively implement Int 209. First, both the academy and civil rights institutions must collect more data on how weight discrimination operates and who is empowered to file antidiscrimination claims. Second, due to the stigma around fatness, advocates and the New York City Commission on Human Rights must seek out violations and encourage individuals to come forward, not just wait for complaints. A high-profile antidiscrimination case has the power to shift cultural norms and incentivize compliance with Int 209. Finally, to live up to the promise of Int 209 New York City must take aggressive action to ensure equal public accommodations access. This action includes convening task forces to evaluate the extent to which accommodations fail New Yorkers and building upon existing systems for creating accessibility. Together, these recommendations can expand protections from Int 209 to more New Yorkers and contribute to a culture-wide shift to make height and weight discrimination culturally impermissible. *This thesis uses the word fat because advocates and scholars prefer the term, and the word is descriptive, not medicalizing or stigmatizing.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2024

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
REYNOLDS-RIVER-THESIS.pdf1.41 MBAdobe PDF    Request a copy

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.