New York City Now Requires Reasonable Accommodation of Pregnant Employees

On October 2, 2013, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law Int. No. 974-2012A, amending the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to prohibit discrimination in employment based on pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. The law goes into effect on January 30, 2014. It prohibits an employer from refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to the needs of an employee for her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition that will allow the employee to perform the essential requisites of the job. According to the New York City Council’s legislative findings accompanying the amendment, reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition 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.”

A “reasonable accommodation” under the NYCHRL is an accommodation that does not cause an employer “undue hardship.” The factors which may be considered in determining a hardship include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • the nature and cost of the accommodation;
  • the overall financial resources of the facility or the facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodation; the number of persons employed at such facility; the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact otherwise of such accommodation upon the operation of the facility;
  • the overall financial resources of the covered entity; the overall size of the business of a covered entity with respect to the number of its employees, the number, type, and location of its facilities; and
  • the type of operation or operations of the covered entity, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce of such entity; the geographic separateness, administrative, or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question to the covered entity.

The law also states that the employer must accommodate for pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition that is known or should have been known by the employer. Notably, the law provides an employer an affirmative defense (in a litigation) by showing that the person aggrieved by the alleged discriminatory practice could not, with a reasonable accommodation, satisfy the essential requisites of the job.

Further, employers must provide written notice (in a form and manner to be determined by the NYC Commission on Human Rights) of the provisions of this new law to (a) new employees at the commencement of employment (any employee who begins employment on or after January 30, 2014); and (b) existing employees by May 30, 2014 (120 days after the law becomes effective). The NYC Commission has not yet issued such notices.

Remedies available under the NYCHRL include compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys fees.

For questions regarding the amendment to the NYCHRL and related litigation, please feel free to contact an attorney in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department.

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