New York City Increases Protections for Pregnant Employees

By: Jerika Morris

On October 2, 2013, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) mandating employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees.[1] Under this legislation, such reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition may include “bathroom breaks, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, and assistance with manual labor.”[2] This amendment will take effect on January 30, 2014.[3]

By expanding the definition of “reasonable accommodation,” pregnant employees in New York City will now be given greater protections against workplace discrimination.[4] Currently, the courts interpret the NYCHRL to prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee for “pregnancy and related conditions.”[5] Nevertheless, the current law does not require an employer to provide a pregnant employee with a reasonable accommodation that could allow a pregnant employee to continue working.[6] However, under the new amendment, as long as the employer has or should have had notice of the employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition; the employer will be required to provide the employee with a reasonable accommodation unless it can show that “(i) the accommodation would impose an ‘undue hardship’ on the employer’s business; or (ii) the employees could not perform the essential requisites of the job even with the accommodation.”[7]

Under New York law, prior to this amendment, pregnant employees who requested reasonable accommodations were often fired or required to take unpaid leave.[8]  For example, a pregnant waitress could have been fired in response to her need to take more frequent restroom breaks.[9] However, under the new legislation, it is now illegal for a New York City employer to refuse to provide a pregnant employee with a reasonable accommodation for conditions related to pregnancy.[10]

In addition to the illegality of failing to provide such reasonable accommodation, the amendment also requires employers to give written notice to both current and new hires of their pregnancy related protections.[11] The New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) will be developing such written notification form informing individuals of their right to not be discriminated against because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.[12]

In light of the new amendment, New York City employers need to make sure that their company’s reasonable accommodation policies are in accord with the New York City Human Rights Law.[13] In order to ensure compliance with the new law, the NYCCHR will be developing training programs for not only the employers, but also the working community at large on what rights and requirements are set forth by the new law. [14]

An employer who is found to have discriminated against an employee in violation of this amendment could be held liable and subject to punitive damages and attorney’s fees under the penalties section of the current NYCHRL.[15]

For New York, this amendment is likely to only be the first step in increasing protections for pregnant women in the workplace. If approved, Governor Cuomo’s “Women’s Equality Act” which “stalled” in the New York State Legislature this past June, will provide pregnant employees through New York State with similar protections.[16]


[1] Katharine Parker, Daniel Saperstein & Kelly A. Targett, New York City Expressly Requires Reasonable Accommodation of Pregnant Employees, Adds Notice Obligations, (Oct. 3, 2013), http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/new-york-city-expressly-requires-reasona-96219/.

[2] Christopher Collins & Jonathan Sokolowsi, New York City Now Requires Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers, Labor & Employment Law Blog, (Oct. 3, 2013), http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/new-york-city-now-requires-reasonable-ac-19445/.

[3] Id.

[4] Parker, supra note 1.

[5] Id.

[6]  An Act to Amend the Executive Law, in Relation to Requiring the Provisions of Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Women, H.R. 1479, 2013 Leg., 236th Sess. (Ny. 2013), http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S1479-2013#Memo.

[7] Collins, supra note 2.

[8] Supra note 6.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Parker, supra note 1.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Katharine Parker, Daniel Saperstein & Kelly A. Targett, New York City Expressly Requires Reasonable Accommodation of Pregnant Employees, Adds Notice Obligations, (Oct. 3, 2013), http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/new-york-city-expressly-requires-reasona-96219/.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: