Height Discrimination in Employment

47 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2009 Last revised: 28 Dec 2009

Date Written: February 16, 2009


At first blush, the concept of real height discrimination is almost laughable. After all, we don't typically think of height when we discuss types of discrimination. Yet there is no denying that we place a high premium on height, be it social, sexual, or economic, and our preference for height pervades almost every aspect of our lives. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith - who towered at 6'8" - described the favored treatment we afford taller people as "one of the most blatant and forgiven prejudices in our society." If you don't believe it, consider whether you yourself would like to be taller and, if so, try putting your finger on the reason why.

This Article looks critically at heightism, i.e., prejudice or discrimination against a person on the basis of his or her height. Specifically, this Article focuses on heightism in the workplace, particularly prejudice against short people because of the unique disadvantages they face vis-a-vis their taller counterparts. Although much scholarship has focused on other forms of trait-based discrimination - most notably weight and appearance discrimination, both of which indirectly involve height as a component - little if any treatment has been given to pure height discrimination. Thus, this Article aims to fill that gap by examining the ways that existing federal antidiscrimination laws - namely Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 - do and do not protect against height-based prejudice in the workplace. Moreover, after briefly examining state and local remedies for height discrimination, including state antidiscrimination laws, this Article considers but ultimately rejects enacting a federal law that would flatly prohibit height-based employments decisions. Although a comprehensive prohibition would be easiest to administer, such a prohibition would prove both gratuitous and unwise.

Keywords: height, discrimination, heightism, employment, Title VII, ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA Amendments Act, disability, impairment, gender, stereotype, short, stature, prejudice

Suggested Citation

Rosenberg, Isaac B., Height Discrimination in Employment (February 16, 2009). Utah Law Review, No. 3, p. 907, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1344817 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1344817

Isaac B. Rosenberg (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

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