Even though New York State, New York City, and the Federal Government all have laws that protect pregnant women in the workplace, discrimination is still prevalent in society. While the primary laws are similar between the three, they each have unique characteristics which separate them. In New York State, it is illegal for an employer to fire a woman (or change the conditions in which she works) because she is pregnant. Additionally, it is illegal for an employee to refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant. Overall, at the state level, the New York State Human Rights Law prohibits employment discrimination based on “familial status” (including pregnancy). In 2016, a law passed that put in place special accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions: occasional breaks to rest or drink water, a modified work schedule, leave for related medical needs, available light-duty assignments, and transfers away from hazardous duty. Lastly, you are guaranteed the right to return to work post-pregnancy, and your employer cannot fire you because of your maternal leave.
In New York City, the New York Commission on Human Rights Legal Enforcement stated that it is unlawful for one to be discriminated against in the workplace, public facilities, a home, etc., based on pregnancy or preconceived pregnancy. Additionally, the NYCHRL addresses discrimination expressly by stating it is prohibited for an employee to be discriminated against because of their “sexual and reproductive health decisions” (including the decision to have children). It wasn’t until 2014 that legislation was passed that removed the prior law stating a woman had to “show that their conditions amounted to a temporary disability” to take a leave from work. New York City legislation incorporates all accommodations set forth by New York State. It also includes a separate section that clarifies pregnancy cannot be treated as a disability. A worker does not need to prove there is extreme danger (or condition) permitting them from working during their pregnancy. The reasoning for this addition was that a large majority of the employed pregnant women were working late into their pregnancy, and many families became reliant on the mother’s income to keep their family stable. They needed to have a source of income while still keeping their health (and their child’s health) safe.
Although federal laws are not as all-encompassing as NYS and NYC laws, the US Department of Labor requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to rest and express breast milk for her nursing child for up to one year after the child’s birth. Back in 2018, the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law created a law that required employers to officially provide basic accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work. This law was covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The accommodations include time for women to express milk, and a private space (that is not a bathroom) to do so in.
If you or anyone you know are experiencing Pregnancy Discrimination in the workplace, feel free to give us a call at 855-JON-BELL. The consultation is free and always confidential.