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House defeats bill to protect tall or fat people

Published March 5, 2013 3:58 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A bill that would prohibit employers from discriminating against workers based on their height or weight was met with skepticism Tuesday by a House committee that worried about the consequences of creating a new protected class in Utah law.

Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, worried about what accommodations employers would have to make under HB132 for a worker who is very tall, heavy or short.

And Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, said that there are limits to what the state can do.

"If bullying is happening, that's just dead wrong," Anderegg said. "I don't think good public policy can accomplish all things for all people all the time."

But Rep. Larry Wiley, D-West Valley City, said that people feel that too many employers still believe it is acceptable to subtly discriminate based on height or weight, and it makes sense for the state to offer protection to them.

"You're not living the lives these folks are living," Wiley said, "going through the trials and tribulations of having to gain or maintain employment."

Rebecca Batty told the committee that she has been the victim of discrimination because she is heavy, but had no recourse because the Utah Labor Commission doesn't offer any workplace protections to people based on weight.

"That puts a label on me that says: 'It's OK. I'm fat and anyone can treat me however they want to treat me,' " she said. "It's a form of bullying."

Batty said the treatment was so bad at one workplace that she wanted to jump in front of a train that ran outside her office.

The committee ultimately voted 10-4 against advancing the bill to the full House for a vote, meaning it is likely dead for the session.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke