Inching Forward Against Weight Discrimination in MA

Massachusetts is inching forward against weight discrimination, with legislation to make it illegal progressing to consideration by the full legislature. The Labor and Workforce Committee voted 7-1 Tuesday to recommend adoption of H-1758, which would make height and weight discrimination illegal for employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, landlords, or real estate agents.

At a hearing in June, representatives of the Obesity Society, the Obesity Action Coalition, the Binge Eating Disorders Association, and local advocates for people affected by obesity testified about the burden of bias and discrimination that people with obesity face.

Scott Butsch, an obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of the Obesity Society’s Advocacy Committee, testified that his patients get a clear picture of the discrimination they’ve faced only after surgery, when they lose large amounts of weight. He said in his testimony:

School teachers, opera singers, store managers, lawyers and other professionals tell me how they surprisingly experienced more responsibilities, more opportunities, and job promotions after losing weight. What is most striking is the fact that this occurs in some patients less than one year after they had weight loss surgery.

Ted Kyle, Vice-Chair of the Obesity Action Coalition and Advocacy Chair for the Obesity Society, spoke to questions about the impact of the Michigan weight discrimination law. Said Kyle:

Some had predicted a flood of complaints when the legislation passed in 1977. That has not been the case. In fact, very few cases have been brought. One unexpected result, though, has been a lower rate of discrimination against women in Michigan than is seen in the rest of the country. These new data come from a study to be published shortly by researchers at Michigan State.

If this bill ultimately becomes law, Massachusetts will become the second state, after Michigan, to explicitly bar discrimination against people based on their body size.

Fingers crossed.

Click here to to read more from onpolitix and here to read more about the June hearing.

Inchworm on Rose, photograph © postbear / flickr

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