Weight Bias & Stigma > Policy Makers

Currently, there are no federal laws that prohibit discrimination against people with obesity and overweight in the workplace, and Michigan is the only state with an anti-discrimination law on its books.

In 2008, Massachusetts held a hearing for House Bill 1844, an Act Making Discrimination on the Basis of Weight and Height Unlawful. Despite overwhelming support for the bill at the March hearing, it did not get out of committee. Lawmakers plan to reintroduce the bill in the next legislative session.

In December 2008, the city council of Binghamton, New York passed a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of weight or height. The Binghamton Human Rights Law specifically makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, housing, education or public accommodations on the basis of weight.

Washington, DC, San Francisco and Santa Cruz, CA, Urbana, IL, and Madison, WI are the only other cities and municipalities in the country that have weight discrimination policies.

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 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 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.