The New York City Council unanimously approved the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which provides that employers cannot penalize a pregnant woman who needs a minor job modification to continue working during pregnancy or requires time off to recover from childbirth. Put another way, employers with four or more employees must provide a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. The law is likely to go into effect in 2014, after it is approved by the Mayor. More after the break.
The new law provides a non-exhaustive list of examples of reasonable accommodations, including bathroom breaks, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, breaks to facilitate water intake, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time and assistance with manual labor, among other things. An employee who believes her employer has refused to provide reasonable accommodation for her pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition can file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) or bring a lawsuit in court seeking damages, including uncapped punitive damages. Covered employers are required to provide written notice to new and existing employees of their right to be free from discrimination due to pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions in a form and manner determined by the NYCCHR.
New York City will join other jurisdictions, including California and Maryland, which mandate some form of accommodation to pregnant employees. These state and local requirements are in addition to federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).