Pregnant Employees in NY are Protected by Workplace Discrimination Laws

Attorneys Understand Employment Laws Protecting Pregnant Workers in New York

At Leeds Brown Law, P.C. our attorneys represent clients who experience employment discrimination. We have seen cases of all types and have been at the forefront as laws evolve to protect more and more individuals from unequal treatment. Those same rules provide ways for employees to recover compensation and other remedies when employers violate their rights.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first federal law to prohibit employment discrimination based on sex, color, race, religion and national origin. Its intention was to give specific people, such as women and African-Americans, equal opportunity and fair treatment in the workplace. Title VII and comparable state statutes have gone a long way toward tempering some of the blatant discrimination that used to exist against certain individuals, sometimes called protected classes. In the years following Title VII, discrimination in the workplace may (or may not!) have become more subtle or directed at people whose characteristics are not specifically addressed by Title VII. History has proven that, as time goes by, federal and state legislators will likely continue to expand protections and legal remedies for those who need them.

Laws Prohibit Sex Discrimination and Pregnancy Discrimination

Consider discrimination based on sex. Women have benefited from Title VII and state laws that prohibit gender discrimination. Treating a pregnant employee less favorably than a male employee could be sex discrimination under Title VII. However, Congress passed a separate statute specifically making it unlawful for an employer to discriminate based on pregnancy. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) amended Title VII to ensure that employers could not get away with this common form of discrimination against women. There are several other laws which we can look to that also address the rights pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace.

Pregnant Workers Receive Protection from Federal Laws

PDA – As stated above, in 1978 Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include specific protection for expectant mothers in the workplace. Title VII states that no employer shall discriminate because of or on the basis of sex. The PDA states that “The terms ‘because of sex’ or ‘on the basis of sex’ include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” The PDA adds that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes…as others not so affected by but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

For example, if you are pregnant and your condition requires that you take several breaks a day from work to rest, your employer must treat you in the same manner as a non-pregnant employee with a medical condition that requires him or her to take several breaks a day rest.

FMLA – Congress passed the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993 to provide job protection to workers who need to take time off for specific reasons related to health. Qualified employees who work for covered employers may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for various reasons including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The birth, adoption, or placement of a foster child
  • To care for a child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition
  • To take care of your serious health condition that makes you unable to perform the essential functions of your job.

A pregnant employee must receive the same treatment as a non-pregnant employee for the purpose of applying the rules of the FMLA. It is unlawful for an employer to interfere with or attempt to deny a right provided by the FMLA.

For example, imagine you are pregnant, and request FMLA leave to take time off to care for your child (you meet eligibility criteria), your employer instantly fires you and hires someone else to do your job. The company soon after that grants FMLA leave to your co-worker who must recover from foot surgery and holds her position as the FMLA requires. The employer’s actions may violate various laws.

ADA – The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments (ADAA) of 2008 prohibit employment discrimination against qualified workers and prospective employees because of a real or perceived disability. The ADA obligates a covered employer to make a “reasonable accommodation” for an employee with a disability.

Pregnancy in and of itself is not a disability under the ADA. However, some of the conditions associated with pregnancy may be. If so, an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to a pregnant woman as it would any other employee.

For example, you are a cashier, and your pregnancy has caused your ankles to swell and has made it difficult to stand for extended periods of time at your register. You ask for a stool, and your employer refuses to provide it. The refusal to accommodate you may be unlawful discrimination under the ADA. If your employer proves a stool for a cashier who requests it because of his or her back problem, you may have multiple claims for discrimination under laws like the ADA and the PDA. You may also have a claim under state or local law.

New York Protects Pregnant Employees from Discrimination in the Workplace

New York has some of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country and pregnancy is simply one of the areas in which our state works hard to ensure equality in the workplace. Employment discrimination laws are found in New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). Here, New York ensures that pregnancy-related medical conditions are treated as disabilities and that employers make reasonable accommodations. NYSHRL also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are breastfeeding, and may not discriminate against workers who choose to express breast milk in the workplace.

New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) requires a New York City private employer to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy even if there is no related medical condition.

For example, if you are a pregnant employee in NYC, your company should automatically allow you to take water and restroom breaks as well as provide relief from standing too long.

Contact Us

Leeds Brown, handling cases for employees on Long Island, in New York City, and the New York metropolitan area, is a firm dedicated to ensuring that victims of workplace discrimination recover the damages they deserve. Our attorneys have years of experience investigating, filing discrimination claims, negotiating settlements, and fighting for workers’ interests in court. We do what it takes to hold your employer responsible for its unlawful actions. At Leeds Brown, we are proud of our work and have a proven track record of success for clients in all types of employment discrimination matters.

If you think you have experienced sex discrimination in New York, pregnancy discrimination in New York City or other discrimination in the workplace, call Leeds Brown for a free case evaluation. Someone is available to answer your call 24/7 so don’t wait. Call employment lawyers today at 1-800-585-4658.