New York City to Require Dialogue Between Employers and Employees Regarding Accommodations for Pregnancy and Other Conditions

Pregnancy discrimination in employment violates New York City’s antidiscrimination law, New York state law, and federal law. This means that employers commit an unlawful employment practice when they refuse to hire someone, fire them, force them to take unpaid leave, deny them promotions or other opportunities, or subject them to other disparate treatment because they are pregnant, have recently given birth, or are dealing with a medical condition related to either pregnancy or childbirth. These antidiscrimination laws also, to greatly varying degrees, require employers to make “reasonable accommodations” related to pregnancy and childbirth. These might include extra bathroom breaks, lifting restrictions, and opportunities to pump breast milk during breaks. A new law passed by the New York City Council, Int. No. 804-2015-A, will further protect workers’ rights by requiring employers to engage in “cooperative dialogue” with any employee who requests an accommodation because of pregnancy, childbirth, and other conditions or situations. The law is set to take effect in October 2018.

Federal law prohibits employment discrimination because of sex and multiple other factors, and includes “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” in its definition of “because of sex.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a)(1). State law includes sex and “familial status” as protected categories, and defines “familial status” to include being pregnant and having one or more children. N.Y. Exec. L. §§ 292(26)(a), 296(1)(a). The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) does not specifically identify pregnancy discrimination as a distinct protected category or as a form of sex discrimination, but it makes reference to “provision[s] of law relating to sex discrimination or pregnancy.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22)(c).

Prohibitions against pregnancy discrimination, generally meaning disparate treatment of pregnant employees and those who have recently given birth, do not necessarily include a duty to provide reasonable accommodations. The fact that an employer cannot fire an employee for becoming pregnant might not mean that the employer must allow that employee extra restroom breaks. State and city law in New York City specifically include requirements for reasonable accommodations, making it an unlawful employment practice to refuse to provide accommodations that will enable an employee to do their job. N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(3), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22)(a). Federal law does not specifically mention accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions, but the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, covers some conditions associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

The new law in New York City amends the NYCHRL to require “cooperative dialogue” between employers and employees regarding requests for reasonable accommodations. It defines this term as “engag[ing] in good faith in a written or oral dialogue” that takes into account the employee’s needs, challenges faced by the employer, and possible alternative solutions. Int. No. 804-2015-A § 1. Cooperative dialogue will be required in requests for accommodations related to pregnancy or childbirth, disabilities, religious practices, and domestic or sexual violence. Failure by an employer to engage in cooperative dialogue will constitute an “unlawful discriminatory practice” under the new law. Id. at § 2.

Phillips & Associates’ knowledgeable and experienced employment attorneys advocate for the rights of New York City employees, former employees, and job applicants, helping them assert claims for pregnancy discrimination and other unlawful employment practices. Please contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Plaintiffs in Successful Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Seek to Change State Law, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 21, 2018

Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Employees Are Still Not Included in Most Anti-Discrimination Statutes, New York Employment Attorney Blog, June 28, 2017

New York City’s Caregiver Discrimination Statute Filled Several Important Gaps in Anti-Discrimination Law, New York Employment Attorney Blog, June 8, 2017

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