Discrimination Lawsuits in New York
When an employer treats an employee or applicant unfavorably due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition that relates to pregnancy or childbirth, it is considered pregnancy discrimination. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), employers are forbidden from discriminating against employees or applicants based on pregnancy in all aspects of employment.
Laws Protecting Pregnant Employees in the Workplace
Various federal, state, and local laws are in place to protect pregnant employees from unjust treatment because of their pregnancy.
Some of the laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination include:
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: This federal law provides that an employer cannot make hiring, firing, or promotion decisions because an employee or potential employee is pregnant. For instance, an employer cannot ask during an interview about a person's plans to become pregnant, or demote an employer or make them quit working because they're pregnant. It also requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for employees who are pregnant or have just given birth. A pregnant employee must be treated as would a non-pregnant employee with a temporary disability. The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act: Under this law, an employer with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against workers with disabilities, including workers with pregnancy-related disabilities. Again, promotion or retention decisions cannot be based on the employee's pregnancy and reasonable accommodations, that would not result in undue hardships to the employer, must be made.
- The Family Medical Leave Act: This law requires that an employer with 50 or more employees allow workers to take unpaid leave because of temporary disabilities, including those arising due to pregnancy. The pregnant worker should be entitled to time off because of their disability without fear of losing their job during their absence.
- The New York State Human Rights Law: Similar to the earlier-mentioned federal laws, this state law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of pregnancy. Pregnant employees must be given reasonable accommodations to allow them to perform their job (or light duty work) while pregnant. The law was recently amended to apply to all employers regardless of size.
- The New York City Human Rights Law: The law requires employers with 4 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Unlike federal laws concerning disabilities, a pregnant worker does not have to have a pregnancy-related condition to be afforded accommodations – simply being pregnant is enough to qualify for protection under this law.
If an employee cannot perform their job due to their pregnancy or a condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer must treat them as any other temporarily disabled employee. Forcing a pregnant worker to maintain high-stress or heavy-duty workloads could result in serious health conditions. Thus, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations for their employee.
When a pregnant employee seeks reasonable accommodations, they must inform their employer of their limitations and their needs. The conversation should be a two-way dialog in which the employer listens and asks for additional information to fully understand the accommodations needed. In some cases, an employer may require a doctor's note, but the employee's medical information must be kept confidential. Additionally, employers are not required to provide the specific accommodations the employee makes, but they must, if it does not create an undue hardship, look for ways to provide reasonable options.
Reasonable accommodations will vary depending on the employee's position, but may include:
- Providing new or modified equipment
- Restructuring duties
- Modifying work schedules
- Allowing time to sit while working
- Allowing time for more frequent restroom breaks
Maternity and Parental Leave
Under the PDA, employers who allow temporarily disabled employees to take disability leave or leave without pay must extend this treatment to women who are temporarily disabled due to pregnancy. However, an employer may request an employee to submit a doctor’s statement regarding their ability to work before granting any leave benefits.
Additionally, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a new parent, including adoptive or foster parents, may receive 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave to care for the new child. Those eligible must have worked for an employer for at least 1 year before taking leave.
What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Pregnancy Discrimination Case?
Discrimination against a pregnant employee can bring on various financial and personal hardships. As such, if a worker is subject to unfair treatment in the workplace, they may seek compensation for damages suffered because of their employer's actions or inactions.
Possible legal remedies include:
- Back pay: Wages, bonuses, and benefits lost because of the discrimination
- Compensatory damages: Expenses the worker had to pay out of pocket.
- Punitive damages: Damages assessed to punish the employer because of its misconduct.
- Attorneys' fees and court costs: Compensation for legal costs arising out of the discrimination case.
Choose a New York Employment Attorney to Protect Your Rights
Workplace discrimination is a serious issue many Americans from varying walks of life face every day. If you have been discriminated against due to pregnancy or childbirth, the legal team at Nisar Law Group, P.C. will fight for you and explore all possible avenues to end the confrontation as smoothly as possible.