New York City Issues New Proposed Rule on Pregnancy Discrimination

New York City pregnancy discrimination lawyers often hear from workers who were denied a job opportunity because they were pregnant, or who lost a job or found their hours cut back when they told their employer about their pregnancy. City, state, and federal laws prohibit a wide range of acts by employers that discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to either. In New York City, employers must also provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and workers who have given birth recently, including a clean and private lactation room on work premises. Many other employment discrimination laws do not require this of employers. In late 2020, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (CHR) published a new proposed rule interpreting and clarifying the city’s pregnancy discrimination laws.

Three antidiscrimination statutes cover New York City, and each one addresses pregnancy discrimination in a different way. At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, and defines “on the basis of sex” to include “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a). The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) prohibits discrimination on the basis of “familial status,” using a definition that includes pregnancy. N.Y. Exec. L. §§ 292(26), 296(1)(a). State law also specifically bars employers from forcing a pregnant employee “to take a leave of absence” in many situations. Id. at § 296(1)(g).

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) does not identify pregnancy as a distinct protected category, although a recent amendment to the law bars discrimination on the basis of “sexual and reproductive health decisions,” which could include pregnancy. See N.Y.C. Admin. Code §§ 8-102, 8-107(1)(a). Both the NYCHRL and the NYSHRL contain provisions for reasonable accommodations. State law requires accommodations for “pregnancy-related conditions,” similar to the way it requires accommodations for employees with disabilities. See N.Y. Exec. L. at §§ 292(21-f), 296(3). City law requires reasonable accommodations for “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition,” as well as “lactation accommodations.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22).

The CHR published its proposed rule in September 2020, and accepted comments from the public until November. The proposed rule amends the CHR’s definitions, found in § 2-01 of Title 47 of the New York City Rules, by adding definitions for terms like “pregnancy,” childbirth,” “related medical condition,” and “sexual or reproductive health decisions.”

The proposed rule would also add new sections to Title 47 dealing with reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation. Notably, it provides examples of unlawful pregnancy discrimination under the NYCHRL, such as:
– Adverse decisions based on “assumptions and stereotypes about the ability, reliability, or professional commitment of pregnant employees”;
– Concern for the health of a pregnant person or the fetus, when used as a pretext for discrimination; and
– Policies or practices that “target[] individuals for disparate treatment based on their actual or perceived pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition,” whether they do so overtly or appear facially neutral.

The employment lawyers at Phillips & Associates advocate for New York City workers’ rights in claims for discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and other factors. Please contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our experienced and skilled team.

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