Some Small Sense

Shopping experiences and store reviews by a very petite woman. Indeed, it sucks. 4'10", 87 pounds, and full grown - is it a surprise I have trouble finding clothes?

May 22, 2007

Massachusetts Height & Weight Anti-Discrimination Laws

As reported by the Associated Press last Friday by Ken Maguire, Boston Representitive Byron Rushing is sponsoring a bill to add height and weight to the anti-discrimination laws. This would provide legal protection for individuals in the workplace as well as while undergoing real estate transactions. According to Rushing (who is black, slim and of average height), he proposed this out of a desire to defend civil rights.

While I'm perfectly clear about that I see that this discrimination occurs, it's equally clear most people don't really believe that the issue is anything serious. Some choice comments from the forums prove enlightening on public opinion:
  • I'm so sick of people using 'discrimination' as a tool to demand special services. The airlines have seats in the planes, there is NO discrimination, you're welcome to sit in it. IF you don't fit, who's fault is that? Discrimination is so abused. Everyone has the right to work, to be all that they can be and there is no finer country, but stop complaining, stop using excuses and stop looking outward, look inward and figure out ways to succeed, just the way our parents and grandparents all did. If you are too short to fly a jet plane, then get a different job don't expect a jet plane to be specially configured just for you....that's discrimination. You're getting something that no one else is.
  • So I looked up the exact definition of Discrimination: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit. So would the 'group' that these people belong to be over-weight people? I believe the real reason discrimination acts were brought into effect were to protect sex, race and religious beliefs. Not to protect people who chow on fast food a little too much. If you're overweight and you think people treat you differently, go on a diet!
  • Except for the most extreme situations you are never going to stop discrimination with a law. People looking for work or housing are discriminated against every day because they are the wrong color, religion, sex, handicapped, fat, tall and you name it....Its a way of life and human nature so better get used to it.
Mixed in with the comments of denial, trivialization, and outright viciousness (check out the more vitriolic ones at the posting) are a few posts defending the proposal. What is interesting is that a lot of people feel that it's perfectly acceptable to punish people using employment opportunities for traits that have absolutely nothing to do with their work performance (or credit-worthiness in the case of real estate). Or it's also fine to pass moral judgements about their character (Napoleonic complex anyone?). Some individuals even try to better define the understanding of what constitutes acceptable levels of discrimination for "overweight," as if a more nuanced bit of discrimination would then be okay.

There is no justification for this. Unless a job requires some physical characteristic in order to perform the duties of the job (i.e., jockeys, models, etc.), there really is no reasonable justification to penalize an individual based on how he looks. All candidates should be given equal opportunity for employment or living accommodations. The reason that certain categories are protected under law, such as race or gender, is that they've been shown to be systematically treated at a disadvantage. Time and time again, it's been shown that the short are economically penalized for their height, all else being equal.

For race, this problem has even been shown to produce disadvantages that are generational because the effects (and wealth, or lack thereof) add up over time and are passed along to offspring. Arguably, height and weight could be considered genetically passed along as well. Could height and weight characteristics be another example?

I applaud Representative Rushing for his proposal. Can't Massachusetts do at least as well as Ontario, Michigan, San Francisco, Victoria (Australia), and Santa Cruz to protect our rights?

While most of the heated commenting has been in regards to weight, how do people feel about the proposed legislation?

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Blogger Ilanna said...

regarding height I would have to say I definitely agree. But within reason. As you said - if the job has a specific physical requirement, then that's not discrimination, it's finding someone to meet that requirement. It's no different than hiring someone who knows how to program over someone who doesn't. They meet the requirement.

The weight issue is a little more sensitive. As far as I am concerned no matter what the person weighs, if they are capable of performing the job then there should be no discrimination. However I don't feel that any special adjustments should be made that are unreasonable. i.e. Sonmeone in an office setting who requires a larger chair, no big deal. Someone who needs to work in a more confined space and requires a completely different space - that's different, or someone who requires two seats on an airline requiring no extra charge, that's a problem. And for the record - i'm overweight myself.

May 23, 2007 11:02 AM  
Blogger Petite Fashionista said...

I love your writting style! Keep up the great work!

Love your fellow PF.

June 04, 2007 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Gail M. Burns said...

I am a Massachusetts resident who was recently denied a hysterectomy based on my weight. There were no medical reasons why I couldn't have the surgery (I have since had it in New York state, there were no complications, and I am very pleased with the results) but the hospital where my family's insurance covers us to receive care (yes, we are fully insured) has decided not to invest in equipment to provide services for fat people. In the case of an emergency they will (they must by law) treat, stabilize, and transfer. But in the case of elective surgery such as mine they can simply refuse to provide care. This is discrimination and this is perfectly legal.

Massachusetts has recently required all its citizens to have health insurance, but my case proves that, until this bill is passed, health insurance is no guarantee of health care. I will be testifying in Boston on March 25. I encourage all Massachusetts citizens to contact their Representatives and urge them to support this bill.

March 12, 2008 11:13 AM  

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