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Local News

March 26, 2008

On Beacon Hill, Marblehead author goes to bat for short, fat

BOSTON — At 4 feet 8 inches tall, Marblehead resident Ellen Frankel understands firsthand how society can discriminate against short people. In fact, she's written the book on it.

The author of "Beyond Measure," an account of the social bias faced by short people, Frankel said it is time for state lawmakers to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on height and weight.

"We want a law that's going to protect those people, celebrate size diversity and not expect everyone to look like cookie cutters of each other," Frankel said in an interview at the Statehouse yesterday.

Frankel supports a bill by Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Boston, that would add height and weight to the list of traits currently acknowledged in state anti-discrimination laws such as race, religion, age and gender. Lawmakers heard Frankel and other supporters of the bill yesterday at a hearing before the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

A licensed clinical social worker in the field of eating disorders since 1987, Frankel has faced social discrimination in the past and hopes the legislation would help deter employers from acting on bias.

Frankel pointed to growth hormone injections given to healthy children as an extreme example of prejudice against short people. She said there's nothing physically wrong with the children, they're just short.

"As a short person, I want to make sure that people growing up in a culture that is so biased against short people have some recourse if they're not looked at based on their merit and are instead looked at based on their height," Frankel said.

In 2003, a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that an employee could expect to receive $789 more annually for each inch exceeding average height (5 feet 9 inches for a man and 5 feet 4 inches for a woman).

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