February 15, 2024

TRENTON – In a major action taken to update and reform state civil rights law, the Senate passed legislation sponsored by Senator Andrew Zwicker and Senator Angela McKnight that would prohibit discrimination against persons because of their height or weight.

“Roughly 40 percent of adults struggle with obesity and their weight, and about 20 percent of children, but this sort of discrimination and bias goes well beyond societal impacts of what we have imposed as a norm,” said Senator Zwicker (D-Middlesex/Mercer/Somerset/Hunterdon). “With this needed change, we will make our laws specific to weight and height discrimination, and will provide protections for a significant number of New Jerseyans.”

The bill would add height and weight to the list of protected qualities, under civil rights law, which currently includes, but is not limited to, race, creed, color, sexual orientation, familial status, disability, liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United States, nationality, sex, gender identity or expression and, source of lawful income used for rental or mortgage payments.

“There is a significant portion of people who believe they have lost out on opportunities due to their physical appearance,” said Senator Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). “Despite this, preventing discrimination based on height or weight has often been left out of efforts to create a more inclusive society. This legislation addresses that omission and protects more individuals from biased behavior.”

This legislation is modeled after the civil rights law in Michigan, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and public service on the basis of height or weight, among other reasons for discrimination. The bill provides exceptions for employment and public administration for bona fide occupational qualifications and safety reasons, respectively.

The bill, S-1602, was approved by the Senate with a vote of 22-14.