Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit by New York City Transit Workers Leads to Workplace Accommodations

Employment laws all over the country protect workers from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions that may arise during pregnancy or after giving birth. New York City pregnancy discrimination attorneys can also use state and city law to demand reasonable accommodations for workers who might need extra restroom breaks, more time to sit down, restrictions on lifting large amounts of weight, and other needs. A 2014 law passed by the New York City Council added provisions regarding reasonable accommodations to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). Unfortunately, many employers continue to deny such accommodations to their employees, sometimes with tragic consequences. A female employee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) sued her employer in 2020, alleging that the refusal to provide reasonable accommodations resulted in her miscarriage. The lawsuit is still pending, but the MTA has reportedly agreed to several new accommodations for pregnant workers.

At the state level, the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) prohibits employment discrimination based on “familial status,” which includes pregnancy. N.Y. Exec. L. §§ 292(26)(a), 296(1)(a). The NYCHRL addresses discrimination by employers because of employees’ “sexual and reproductive health decisions,” which may include the decision to have children. N.Y.C. Admin. Code §§ 8-102, 8-107(1)(a).

Both city and state law require reasonable accommodations during an employee’s pregnancy and after they give birth. The NYSHRL requires accommodations for “pregnancy-related conditions,” which refers to both conditions “that inhibit[] the exercise of a normal bodily function” and that are generally accepted to be part of pregnancy or childbirth. N.Y. Exec L. §§ 292(21-f), 296(3). The NYCHRL requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations “that will allow the employee to perform the essential requisites of the job.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22)(a).

The plaintiff in the lawsuit described above began working for the MTA in 2019. According to media coverage of the case, she completed her one-year probationary period in June 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic was several months old at that point, and the MTA was having serious personnel problems. The plaintiff has stated that she had to go into quarantine because of on-the-job exposure to someone who tested positive. She was also pregnant.

A doctor gave the plaintiff two notes describing accommodations she would need during her pregnancy. She should avoid lifting heavy objects, and she should not spend too long on her feet. Her job as a conductor involved both of these.

The plaintiff states that she tried to request accommodations almost as soon as her probation ended, but she claims that no one seemed to know the procedure for making such a request. Eventually, she was informed that she needed to see a doctor approved by MTA before it would grant her request. By this point, she states that spending so much time standing was causing serious problems. While she was waiting for an appointment to see the doctor, she went into labor and eventually had a miscarriage. She joined a lawsuit with several other female MTA employees alleging pregnancy discrimination through failure to provide reasonable accommodations.

The employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent workers in New York City, advocating for their rights in claims for pregnancy discrimination and other unlawful acts. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our skilled and experienced team, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

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