On September 24, 2013, New York City Council unanimously approved legislation designed to prevent discrimination in the workplace based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Introductory Bill No. 974-A recognizes the Council’s findings that pregnant women are vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace, citing reports of women who had requested accommodations to maintain a healthy pregnancy or to recover from childbirth, only to be removed from their positions, placed on unpaid leave, or fired.
The legislation provides examples of reasonable accommodations, which may include bathroom breaks, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, and assistance with manual labor. There is an exception, however, as employers are not required to provide an accommodation if doing so would cause the employer’s business to suffer “undue hardship.” To determine whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship, employers should consider factors such as the nature and cost of the accommodation and their overall financial resources.
Mayor Bloomberg is expected to sign the legislation into law, which will take effect 120 days thereafter, and will apply to all businesses with four or more employees including independent contractors. Under the new law, employers will also be required to conspicuously post and provide written notice to employees of their right to be free from discrimination due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. Employees who believe they have been discriminated against will be able to file a complaint with New York City’s Commission on Human Rights or bring an action in court against their employer.