New York City Class Action Alleges Widespread Pregnancy Discrimination

New York City pregnancy discrimination laws offer some of the most extensive protections to workers in the whole country. Federal law classifies discrimination on the basis of pregnancy as a form of sex discrimination. State and city law goes further, requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and employees with newborn children. The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) goes further still, requiring employers to provide private, sterile lactation rooms where workers can express breast milk, along with facilities for storing milk while at work. A class action filed in a Brooklyn federal court alleges that the police department failed to provide lactation facilities for employees as required by law. The lawsuit was filed more than a year ago and is in the process of seeking class certification.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions in its definition of sex discrimination. The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) prohibits discrimination on the basis of familial status, which includes pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. It also states that an employer commits an unlawful discriminatory practice when they fail to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy-related conditions.

A law passed by the New York City Council several years ago added provisions to the NYCHRL regarding accommodations for new parents who are nursing. Employers must provide a “lactation room,” defined as “a sanitary place, other than a restroom,” that is “shielded from view and free from intrusion.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-102. The room must include a power outlet, a place to sit, and a surface to place a pump and other items. It must be located near a sink or water fountain, and “in reasonable proximity to [an] employee’s work area.” Id. at § 8-107(22)(b)(i).

The five plaintiffs in the lawsuit described above are or were employed by the New York City Police Department. They have all given birth at some point since 2007. They allege that, after their children were born, they were denied locations to safely express breast milk in privacy, as required by law. They also claim that when they attempted to make use of whatever facilities were available, they were taunted by co-workers. When they reported their concerns to their superiors, they were allegedly subjected to retaliation.

The plaintiffs claim a class consisting of female employees of the NYPD who, during a period of time from August 15, 2007, to the present, have needed to express milk while on the job. While federal law does not make any specific mention of lactation, they argue in their complaint that it is a “related medical condition,” and therefore falls under Title VII’s prohibition on pregnancy discrimination.

The complaint asserts thirteen causes of action in total. They claim pregnancy discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation under Title VII, the NYSHRL, and the NYCHRL. Since their employer is a government agency, they also raise all three claims under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, more commonly known as § 1983. The final claim is a Monell claim, named for the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1978 decision in Monell v. Department of Soc. Svcs. that allowed § 1983 claims against municipal governments.

Phillips & Associates’ employment lawyers advocate for the rights of employees and job seekers in New York City in claims for pregnancy discrimination and other unlawful acts. Please contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.

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