Pregnancy Discrimination in New York State and New York City
Many State and City laws also provide for reasonable accommodations of a pregnant worker’s condition or physical needs. The focus of these laws is to accommodate the physical conditions and limitations of women who are pregnant. Both New York State and New York City human rights laws cover all employers with four or more employees.
New York State
Pregnancy Accommodation and Pregnancy Related Disability Accommodation
The Protect Women from Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended the New York State Human Rights Law to define a “pregnancy-related condition” as a disability. The amendment requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions, unless the accommodation would place an undue burden on the employer.
The bill defines “pregnancy-related condition” as "a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth that inhibits the exercise of a normal bodily function or is [medically] demonstrable” provided, [that the term be] limited to conditions which, upon the provision of reasonable accommodations, do not prevent the complainant from performing in a reasonable manner the activities involved in the job.”
An employer must provide reasonable unpaid break time or permit an employee to use paid break time or meal time to express breast milk for up to three years following child birth. The employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, where an employee can express milk in privacy. No employer may discriminate in any way against an employee who chooses to express breast milk in the work place.
New York City
Pregnancy Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodation
New York City’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”), a 2014 amendment to the NYCHRL, provides even more protections for pregnant workers. Under the PWFA, employers with four or more employees must accommodate an employee’s pregnancy, and almost any accommodation that does not cause an undue hardship to the employer must be provided. These accommodations, many of which require little change in the workplace, have the goal of ensuring that a pregnant woman can remain at work safely in her work environment instead of finding herself being pushed out of the workforce.
In 2016, the NYC Commission on Human Rights issued guidelines on the enforcement of the PWFA. This guidance gives information on the scope of the PWFA and the type of reasonable accommodations pregnant workers are entitled to. It also details the responsibilities of employers. Since the PWFA applies to all employers with four or more employees in New York City, the reach of the PWFA and the 2016 Guidelines is significant. The most notable part of the guidance spells out that the employee and employer must enter into a "cooperative dialogue,” whereby employers and employees evaluate options for accommodating an employee in a timely manner for a time-limited period.