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Broadway Reopening: Weight Discrimination and Freedom of Expression in the Arts

We are so excited for the reopening of theater—including Broadway! Broadway has announced that it will reopen in September 2021.

Many were shocked and outraged that a recent New York Times article announcing Broadway’s reopening noted that Broadway may not rehire certain actors due to weight gain. Few people are aware that it’s legal in 49 states to terminate a person for putting on weight. Some U.S. cities like San Francisco and Binghampton, NY have passed legislation preventing weight discrimination, but Michigan is the only state that has an explicit law addressing the issue.

Under federal law, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person's race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. There is a carve out, however, if the protected characteristic is part of a “bona fide” occupational qualification or “BFOQ.” Additionally, the First Amendment protects artistic expression in entertainment, television, and dramatic works. Read more here.

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