Weight Bias & Stigma > Policy Makers

Currently, there are no federal laws in the United States that prohibit weight discrimination in the workplace, and Michigan is the only state that has passed a state law that protects people from weight discrimination.

In the past decade, Massachusetts has repeatedly tried to pass a law to prohibit weight discrimination. In 2017, Massachusetts held a hearing for House Bill 952, an Act Making Discrimination on the Basis of Weight and Height Unlawful.

In the meantime, increasing cities across the U.S. have begun implementing legislation at the local level. Localities including Binghamton (New York), Madison (Wisconsin), San Francisco and Santa Cruz (California), Washington (District of Columbia), and Urbana (Illinois) have passed local laws prohibiting weight discrimination. While these efforts are promising, the vast majority of Americans have no legal protections or recourse if they face weight discrimination. 

This Rudd Center policy brief covers the consequences of bias in employment, health care and education; provides citations for important studies; suggests responses to common arguments against the need for policies to address weight bias; and discusses current law, and policy recommendations.

Policies are also needed to help reduce weight-based bullying in youth. Children and adolescents with overweight or obesity are frequent targets of victimization and harassment because of their weight.

Although most states in the U.S. have anti-bullying laws to help protect youth against bullying, only three state laws (Maine, New Hampshire, and New York) enumerate ‘body weight’ or ‘physical appearance’ as characteristics that place youth at risk for being bullied. Given that weight-based bullying is one of the most prevalent forms of bullying in the school setting, it is important to advocate for the enumeration of ‘body weight’ in anti-bullying policies and laws to more comprehensively protect youth with overweight or obesity who are frequent targets of harassment.

View our resources on Enumeration of Weight in Anti-bullying Policies and Model School-Based Anti-Bullying Policy to learn more about the importance of including body weight in anti-bullying legislation, as well as key components that should be included in school-based anti-bullying policies.