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Pregnant Workers and Mothers-to-be Got a BIG Mother’s Day Present from the City of New York

— Better than flowers, a massage or breakfast in bed!

On May 6, 2016, NYC released new guidelines that enforce the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”), a 2014 amendment to the NYC Human Rights Law that requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to their pregnant employees.

Although the PWFA has been in effect for two years, we know of countless women who have been denied reasonable accommodations during this time period and as a result were pushed out of the workforce. We have represented many of these women in legal actions.

Because the PWFA is considerably broader than state and federal anti-pregnancy discrimination laws, even good employers often fail to understand the full scope of their obligations. The Guidance explains what is, and what is not considered pregnancy discrimination. Best of all, the Guidance requires that employers and employees enter into a “Cooperative Dialogue” in a timely fashion in which both sides need to engage in exploring options to keep the employee on the job. Most modifications will be modest and cost the employer nothing, for instance, changing a pregnant employee’s schedule, granting them water and bathroom breaks, honoring restrictions in heavy lifting requirements and permitting a pregnant woman additional time to eat. Minor accommodations such as these can help a pregnant worker remain employed.

GELC actively represents and litigates cases on behalf of pregnant employees. Using the new Guidance as a roadmap, our goal is to educate women about their rights as soon as they become pregnant, if not before; while at the same time educating employers about their responsibility to initiate a “cooperative dialogue” with their pregnant employee. Early and timely intervention is the key to making this law effective.

While we are optimistic about the scope of the new Guidance, we are realistic in understanding that pregnancy discrimination persists and is unlikely to go away any time soon. Biases against pregnant women are slow to die and some employers can only be convinced through legal action. We believe that lawsuits on behalf of individuals send a strong message to NYC employers and therefore have a cumulative impact in protecting the rights of pregnant workers at large.

We represent our clients on a pro bono basis because they are predominantly low-income or out of work and therefore without income. Will you help us vindicate the rights of low-income pregnant workers who encounter discrimination on the job? If so, please consider donating to GELC to help us effectively enhance protections for all pregnant workers in the City of New York.


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