What are My Rights as a Pregnant Employee in New York City?

Pregnancy is a joyous yet stressful time for many women in New York. Juggling a full-time job and an expected new baby is never easy. Unfortunately, too many New York employers make things more difficult by failing to make the necessary pregnancy accommodations required by federal, state, and city laws. Such failures are not simply an oversight, they are a form of illegal pregnancy discrimination, and affected employees have the right to take action.

Pregnancy and Reasonable Accommodation

The New York City Commission on Human Rights, which oversees the enforcement of citywide employment discrimination laws, recently issued an updated fact sheet and employer notice explaining the rights of pregnant workers. All covered employers, which is basically any business in New York City that employs at least four people, must post the Commission's notice or at least provide written notice of their employees' rights in a substantially similar form.

What are a pregnant employee's rights? First and foremost, an employer must have policies in place to provide “reasonable accommodation” to a pregnant employee. This is similar to requirements governing disabled employees under the Americans With Disabilities Act. There is no fixed legal definition of a “reasonable” accommodation. Instead, the employer must work with the employee to reach an agreement that meets the following standards:

  • The employer makes clear it values the employee's “contributions to the workplace”;
  • The employer assists the employee in continuing to perform the “essential” functions of her job during her pregnancy;
  • The employer enables to the employee to continue working as long as possible during her pregnancy; and
  • The final accommodation meets the employee's legitimate needs while not imposing an “undue hardship” on the employer's business.

Again, the actual accommodation will depend on each individual employee's situation. For guidance, the Commission notes that accommodations may include:

  • Permitting the employee to take additional bathroom, meal, and rest breaks during the workday;
  • Temporarily altering the employee's working environment;
  • Granting the employee additional time off or flexibility in scheduling work shifts;
  • Temporarily reassigning the employee to lighter work duty or a different position within the company;
  • Giving the employee additional time off to recover from childbirth; and
  • Providing private, non-bathroom space for a new mother to express breast milk.

Have You Been a Victim of Pregnancy Harassment or Discrimination?

Beyond making reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, New York employers must also ensure they do not create a hostile work environment for new and expecting mothers. This includes training supervisors not to harass pregnant employees, such as by making derogatory remarks or suggesting they are less qualified for their job due to their pregnancy.

If you are, or have been, pregnant and believe your employer has not lived up to its obligations under the law, do not be afraid to speak up. Pregnancy discrimination is a serious matter and should never be tolerated. If you need to speak with an experienced New York employment discrimination lawyer about your workplace situation, contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar today.

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