New York City Law Protects Pregnant Employees

If you are pregnant or recovering from childbirth, and you work for an employer in New York City, the law provides fairly significant protections. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, effective January 31, 2014, it is now illegal for New York City employers with 4 or more employees to refuse to provide a “reasonable accommodation” for a pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. This means that these employers are required to take reasonable steps to make sure that workers can continue to do their jobs while maintaining a healthy pregnancy or recovering from childbirth. Employers must notify employees of these new protections in writing and may do so by posting a notice in the workplace.

Reasonable accommodation includes, but is not limited to, permitting employees to take: 

  •  Bathroom breaks
  • Time off to recover from childbirth
  • Water breaks
  • Periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time
  • Assistance with manual labor

The federal government may not be far behind New York City in ensuring that workers around the country are given similar protections. While many pregnant employees must often choose between their health and remaining in a job that won’t accommodate their condition, there is currently strong support for a proposed federal law called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act which aims to eliminate discrimination against employees and job applicants who need reasonable accommodations for physical and medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth. With some limitations, the proposed legislation will make it illegal for employers to:


  • Fail to make a reasonable accommodation for “known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a job applicant or employee”
  • “Deny employment opportunities to a job applicant or employee” because the employer would be required to make a reasonable accommodation for the applicant or employee
  • “Require a job applicant or employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions to accept an accommodation that such applicant or employee chooses not to accept”
  • “Require an employee to take leave under any leave law or policy” rather than provide a reasonable accommodation for that employee

The federal law would also prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for complaining about a failure to provide a reasonable accommodation or for participating in someone else’s case or complaint.

If you or someone you know has been discriminated against because of a pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition please contact an experienced employment attorney at Spivak Lipton immediately to discuss your legal options.


Posted on July 11, 2014 .