Neighboring State Legislature Extends Legal Protections to Breastfeeding Workers

New York City employees are expressly protected from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy under state and federal law. City and state law make up for a gap in federal protection by requiring certain reasonable accommodations for workers who are pregnant or have recently given birth. One area where state and city law do not provide protection, as New York City pregnancy discrimination attorneys have often encountered, is in the area of accommodations for breastfeeding employees. Federal law requires employers to provide unpaid breaks and a private location for workers to express breast milk. About a year ago, New Jersey amended its antidiscrimination statute to include breastfeeding as a distinct protected category, and to require reasonable accommodations for breastfeeding employees.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, defines sex discrimination to include discrimination “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a). The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) identifies familial status as a protected category, defining it to include being “pregnant or ha[ving] a child .” N.Y. Exec. L. §§ 292(26), 296(1)(a). The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) does not specifically include pregnancy as a protected category. It does, however, protect against employment discrimination based on “caregiver status,” defined to include “provid[ing] direct and ongoing care for a minor child.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code §§ 8-102, 8-107(1)(a).

Pregnant employees, and those who have recently given birth, often require accommodations in the workplace, such as additional breaks for restroom use and to drink water, lifting restrictions and other physical limitations, and changes to shift schedules. Federal law does not require reasonable accommodations in cases of pregnancy or childbirth, except with the possible exception of conditions that meet the definition of “impairment” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. See 29 C.F.R. Appendix to § 1630(h). State law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for “pregnancy-related conditions,” generally defined as conditions “that inhibit[] the exercise of a normal bodily function.” N.Y. Exec. L. §§ 292(21-f), 296(3)(a). City law requires reasonable accommodations that “allow the employee to perform the essential requisites of the job.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22)(a). Both laws include “undue hardship” exceptions for employers.

Neither city nor state law require specific accommodations to allow breastfeeding employees to express milk during the work day. This process requires both time and privacy, and a private environment that is not a restroom is vastly preferable. At the federal level, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, commonly known as “Obamacare,” amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require breaks and a private, non-restroom location for breastfeeding employees. 29 U.S.C. § 207(r)(1). The statute specifies, however, that employers are not obligated to pay employees for time spent on such breaks. Id. at § 207(r)(2). As of January 8, 2018, New Jersey state law also requires employers to provide breaks and a private, non-restroom location. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 10:5-12(s).

Phillips & Associates’ team of knowledgeable and skilled employment lawyers represents employees and job seekers in New York City, helping their assert the rights in claims for unlawful workplace practices like pregnancy discrimination. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case, please contact us today at (212) 248-7431 or online.

More Blog Posts:

Lawsuit Alleges Pregnancy Discrimination, Sexual Harassment Against Media Company, New York Employment Attorney Blog, May 10, 2017

Fighting for the Right to Continue Working During Pregnancy, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 11, 2015

Appellate Court Holds that Inefficient Accommodations, Impolite Supervisors Do Not Necessarily Support a Pregnancy Discrimination Claim, New York Employment Attorney Blog, March 19, 2014

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