New York Assembly Bill Would Improve State Law Protections Against Pregnancy Discrimination

A bill pending in the New York Assembly would amend the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), NY Exec. Law §§ 290 et seq., to require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), NY Admin. Code §§ 8-101 et seq., already requires reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, thanks to an amendment enacted by the New York City Council in late 2013. Federal law, however, does not expressly provide similar protections in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., or the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.

The Assembly bill, A1264, amends the definition of “reasonable accommodation” in the NYSHRL, NY Exec. Law § 292(21-e), to include actions taken on behalf of employees with disabilities and those with “pregnancy-related conditions.” It adds subsection 21-f to the statute, which defines “pregnancy-related condition” as any medical condition associated with pregnancy or childbirth “that inhibits the exercise of a normal bodily function,” but does not prevent performing a person’s job in a reasonable capacity; and it designates pregnancy and childbirth as temporary disabilities. Refusal to provide reasonable accommodations for a pregnancy-related condition is added to the list of unlawful discriminatory practices in NY Exec. Law § 296(3)(a).

Pregnant employees frequently deal with discriminatory treatment when they ask for accommodations, such as more frequent breaks to use the restroom, lifting restrictions, or rescheduling for doctor’s appointments. Employers may refuse to provide accommodations, forcing employees to quit or put their pregnancies at risk, or they may terminate a pregnant employee for inability to perform their job duties. Without legal requirements for reasonable accommodations, such actions do not necessarily violate anti-discrimination laws.

The New York Senate passed an equivalent bill, S5880, on June 21, 2013. It delivered the bill to the Assembly the same day, but the bill died in the Assembly on January 8, 2014. The Senate took the bill up again and passed it a second time on June 12, 2014. It is now awaiting action in the Assembly’s Committee on Governmental Operations.

The New York City Council passed Int. No. 974-A on September 24, 2013, and the mayor signed it into law on October 2. Much like A1264 and S5880, the law amended the NYCHRL by adding a new subsection, NY Admin. Code § 8-107(22), requiring reasonable accommodations for employees with pregnancy- or childbirth-related conditions. The law only applies to employers with four or more employees with New York City.

Federal law does not necessarily have similar protections for pregnant employees. Title VII treats pregnancy discrimination as a form of sex or gender discrimination, and prohibits disparate treatment in hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, and other feature of employment based on pregnancy. It does not, however, require reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.

The ADA, which prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, but pregnancy is generally not, by itself, considered a “disability” within the statute’s meaning. Medical conditions arising from pregnancy, such as maternal hypertension, may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), based on new rules adopted by the Department of Labor.

The employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent the rights of workers in New York City and surrounding areas, asserting claims for pregnancy discrimination and other unlawful employment practices at the municipal, state, and federal levels. Please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Retail Worker Files Pregnancy Discrimination Class Action Lawsuit, Claiming Employer Forced Her to Take Unpaid Maternity Leave, New York Employment Attorney Blog, May 8, 2014
Appellate Court Holds that Inefficient Accommodations, Impolite Supervisors Do Not Necessarily Support a Pregnancy Discrimination Claim, New York Employment Attorney Blog, March 19, 2014
New York City Pregnancy Discrimination Ordinance Helps Woman Get Her Job Back, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 27, 2014

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