Pregnancy Discrimination in New York City Workplaces Can Sometimes Be Difficult to Identify

Pregnancy discrimination is against the law in New York City. Employment discrimination attorneys can bring claims under the laws of New York City, New York State, or the United States. It is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire someone, or to rescind an offer of employment, because the person is pregnant or has recently given birth. Other unlawful acts include terminating a person ‘s employment, forcing them to take unpaid leave, or cutting their shifts because of pregnancy or childbirth. Identifying when this sort of discrimination has occurred can be difficult, since employers rarely state outright that this is the reason for the adverse action. Proving New York pregnancy discrimination under city, state, or federal law therefore often requires evidence showing that the action was out of the ordinary.

The Law Prohibits Pregnancy Discrimination

At the federal level, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 prohibits discrimination “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,” including this in its definition of sex discrimination. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a)(1). This covers adverse actions taken against an employee, but does not require employers to make accommodations for pregnant employees and those who have given birth recently. Some medical conditions associated with pregnancy and childbirth might qualify as a “disability” under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires reasonable accommodations.

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) implicitly includes the sort of pregnancy discrimination described by the PDA in its prohibition of gender discrimination. See N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22)(c). The statute explicitly requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations based on “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition[s],” and to provide adequate facilities for lactating employees who need to express breast milk. Id. at §§ 8-107(22)(a), (b).

Employers Might Discriminate on the Basis of Pregnancy Without Saying So

An article written by a New York City teacher in 2019 offers a rather overt example. She writes that she informed her employer that she was pregnant after the employer assigned her to teach an online class. She reportedly assured the employer that childbirth would only make her unavailable for three days, after which she could be back online teaching and working with students. The employer, she claims, said that “three days wouldn’t be soon enough,” and then “suggest[ed she] teach for them at another time.”

The real world is usually more complicated than this. Most employers know the law, and are therefore likely to provide pretextual reasons for taking adverse actions against employees who are pregnant or recently gave birth.

Possible Signs of Pregnancy Discrimination

Since employers typically do not admit to discriminating on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth, workers must look for other indicators when an adverse employment action occurs near the time they inform their employer of their pregnancy, or the time they give birth, such as:
– Drop-off in shifts or work assignments;
– Increase in criticism of work, especially when no such criticism occurred before;
– Isolation from professional development opportunities and work-related social activities;
– Cessation of talk about raises or promotions; or
– Other incidents or events that appear to single out one employee or treat them differently.

The experienced and knowledgeable employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates know how to prove pregnancy discrimination, and they can help workers assert their rights in claims for pregnancy discrimination and failure to provide reasonable accommodations in New York City. Please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

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