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Are Height, Weight or Lifting Requirements Legal?

Man lifting box at work

You may have seen job ads requiring that you lift a certain amount of weight, like 50 or 75 pounds. You may have noticed a job description requiring you to be a certain height. Maybe an ad discriminated against overweight employees.

If you’ve seen these ads, you’re not imagining things. Employers are getting picky with their applicants. While many employers require a large amount of skills and qualifications, some are going a step further and basing applicants on their physical appearance and strength. But the question is: Is this legal?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), weight and height should not be conditions of employment unless they are absolutely required for the position. Employers are asked to avoid these topics when hiring. While having height or weight requirements may be viewed as illegal, employers can choose to hire who they want, as long as there is not a disability involved. While some cities and states have laws prohibiting height and weight discrimination, there is no federal law prohibiting employers from inquiring about these physical attributes.

So, when would a height or weight requirement be legal? An example would be if the person was seeking employment in the acting or modeling industries. Acting roles require someone to be a certain gender, height or weight, based on the screenplay or adaptation. Requiring a person to be a certain height or weight for, say, a stockbroker, teacher or manager would not be legal because those requirements have nothing to do with job performance.

Lifting Requirements

Can an employer weed out women by enforcing lifting requirements? The EEOC has fought many cases regarding this requirement. While there is no specific statute in place that makes lifting requirements illegal, it is based on the “essential duties of the job.”

For example, if the employee is a truck unloader who frequently unloads and carries large items as part of his job, then that would be considered an essential duty. However, for an office assistant who primarily answers phones, files paperwork and delivers mail, but may lift a 50-pound package on occasion, a lifting requirement would not hold up in court, since heavy lifting would not be considered an essential duty. The employee could otherwise do the job and meet all the requirements.

Contact a New York Gender Discrimination Attorney

You should not be laid off or forced to quit a job based on your appearance or lifting capability. As long as you can perform the main duties of your job, you should not be fired.

If you are facing discrimination based on your height, weight, gender or strength, seek legal help.  The experienced New York gender discrimination attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can assess your case and determine if there was good cause to fire you or refuse to hire you for a certain position. To learn more, call (347)-464-8694 and schedule a consultation.

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