Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Employees Are Still Not Included in Most Anti-Discrimination Statutes

Discrimination in employment on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions related to either is unlawful under federal law and most state anti-discrimination laws. Unfortunately, many of these laws do not protect pregnant employees and employees who have recently given birth from other issues that may arise in the workplace. Fewer than half of the states in the U.S. require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and related conditions, such as extra bathroom breaks, adequate seating, or a private area to allow employees to pump breast milk. New York is one of those states, but the failure of a proposed bill in another state, which would have enacted similar protections, shows that there is still much work to do nationwide.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, prohibits pregnancy discrimination across the country. This means that an employer cannot fire or refuse to hire an individual solely on the basis of the above factors, nor may they require a pregnant employee to take unpaid leave or reduce their work hours without a valid reason directly related to a particular employee’s job duties. At the state level, the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) also prohibits pregnancy discrimination, as does the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

Federal law contains no express provisions requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers or those who have recently given birth. Some, but far from all, conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth may fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many state laws regarding disability discrimination may also cover some pregnancy-related conditions. At least 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws specifically requiring reasonable accommodations in the context of pregnancy and childbirth.

The NYSHRL defines a “reasonable accommodation,” in part, as “actions taken which permit an employee…with…a pregnancy-related condition, to perform in a reasonable manner the activities involved in the job.” N.Y. Exec. L. § 292. The NYCHRL specifies that a reasonable accommodation may “not cause undue hardship in the conduct of the covered entity’s business.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-102(18). Both statutes make it an “unlawful discriminatory practice” to refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition. N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(3), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22).

In February 2017, a group of state legislators in South Dakota reportedly quashed a bill, HB 1120, that would have established provisions for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy and childbirth, similar to those of the NYSHRL. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, South Dakota is one of only four states that does not expressly prohibit pregnancy discrimination at the state level. Its laws regarding reasonable accommodations for temporary disabilities could apply to pregnancy or childbirth, but HB 1120 would have provided much greater protection. One of the legislators who voted to shelve the bill reportedly stated, in regard to employees who are unable to obtain a reasonable accommodation, “You can quit.”

The experienced and skilled pregnancy discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of employees, former employees, and job applicants in New York City. We help our clients assert claims for pregnancy discrimination and other unlawful employment practices. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

More Blog Posts:

Lawsuit Alleges Pregnancy Discrimination, Sexual Harassment Against Media Company, New York Employment Attorney Blog, May 10, 2017

New York City Lawsuit Includes Allegations of Sexual Harassment and Pregnancy Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 27, 2017

New York City Employment Laws Help Employees Assert Their Rights on a Level Playing Field, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 2, 2017

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