Federal, state, and city laws protect pregnant workers in New York City.
Federal law provides the fewest protections. For instance, pregnant workers may request accommodations, such as being permitted to take more frequent bathroom breaks. However, federal rules for accommodating pregnant workers are less strict than those for accommodating disabled workers. An employer must reasonably accommodate a disabled worker unless it creates an undue hardship for the employer, but is only required to accommodate a pregnant worker to the same extent that the employer would accommodate a similar request from a non-pregnant employee.
A recent New York Times article raises concerns about the frequency with which requests for pregnancy-related accommodations are denied, and the toll such denials take on pregnant workers. The article cites instances in which the denials of accommodations by employers caused employees to suffer pregnancy-related health problems, including miscarriage.
In recent years, there have been efforts to implement stricter federal rules on employers when it comes to accommodating pregnant workers, but these legislative efforts have so far proven unsuccessful.
However, federal law is not the only source of legal protection for employees. Sometimes, state and local laws provide workers with additional protections beyond those required by federal law. For example, under New York state law, pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, and employers must engage in an interactive process with a pregnant worker to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions.
Pregnant workers are further protected by New York City law, which prohibits pregnancy discrimination as a form of gender discrimination. The New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.
When pregnant workers in the New York City area believe they are being treated unfairly at work, it is important for them to understand their rights under local, state, and federal law. Skilled employment lawyers can guide workers as they determine a course of legal action.