overweight woman receiving bad news

Weight Discrimination at Work

By Tom McKinney
NJ Employment Attorney

Recently, New Jersey officials have begun an attempt to amend statewide discrimination laws in an effort to make them more similar to legislation in nearby states, such as New York. 

Significantly, New York City introduced a bill banning weight discrimination at work. However, this type of law is not currently in effect in New Jersey.

Can you be fired for being overweight in New Jersey?

New Jersey has an anti-discrimination law known as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). This law makes it illegal to exclude someone from employment on the basis of their ethnicity, national origin, or gender. Additionally, the law prohibits discrimination based on the following:

Using any of these factors to make hiring, firing, promotion, or demotion decisions is currently illegal in New Jersey. 

With the current phrasing in the legislation, LAD doesn’t make it illegal to discriminate against an employee for being overweight. There is no federal law prohibiting these actions, either.

NYC Has a Bill that Bans Weight Discrimination

In May of 2023, the mayor of New York City signed a bill that expanded the city’s existing anti-discrimination laws. The bill made it illegal for employers to discriminate against a person in the workplace based on their weight or height. 

This law has proven influential, as several officials in surrounding states have begun to consider introducing similar legislation.

The New York bill primarily pertains to actions in the workplace. However, it also outlaws weight and height discrimination in matters relating to housing and public accommodations. 

Significantly, the bill does contain an exception: Employers can choose not to hire someone if the role requires a specific height or weight for safety purposes.

What to Do if You Think You’ve Been Fired for Being Overweight

If you are an employee in New Jersey who is faced with discriminatory behavior, you can file a complaint with the state’s Division on Civil Rights (DCR). The first step is to fill out and submit an online intake form. You can also contact the division over the phone. 

The reporting form will ask you to describe the incident. You’ll also have a chance to include supporting documents that back up your side of the story. 

According to the state attorney general, you can include any of the following in your report:

  • The names of the person or people who were involved in the incident
  • The names of any relevant witnesses to the incident
  • Documentation that provides proof of your claim (especially if the discrimination happened over email or text)
  • Any company documents that will help your claim

After you submit the form, the DCR will contact you to schedule an interview. An investigator will ask you specific questions to determine whether their office has jurisdiction over your claim before proceeding to process it.

If you’ve experienced discrimination in the workplace, it’s a good idea to seek legal representation. A qualified labor attorney will offer advice and help you navigate the forms and processes involved in filing a claim. They may also be able to inform you about additional statutes and relevant case law.

Hiring a qualified labor attorney takes most of the guesswork out of the process. You’ll have confidence knowing that the information you provide has been vetted and approved by an experienced legal professional.

Fighting Discrimination with the Right Partner at Your Side

If you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, turn to the attorneys at NJ Employment Lawyers. Our firm has extensive experience and a top track record when it comes to employment law, especially in cases dealing with discrimination and sexual harassment. Reach out to our team today to schedule a consultation.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is a skilled employment law attorney with New Jersey Employment Lawyers LLC. He has a track record of success in all areas of employment law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, whistleblower claims and hostile work environment claims. Besides litigation, Tom handles severance agreements and severance package reviews/negotiations for over 100 people each year. If you have any questions regarding this blog, contact Tom here.