It’s been a long day and your feet are killing you. You make your way down the steamy subway platform and are fortunate to score a seat on the southbound A train out of Penn Station. Next stop – 14th Street where you see a very pregnant strap-hanger swept on board among the jostling rush-hour throng. You immediately offer her your seat because it’s the right thing to do and one of the unwritten rules of Gotham – we accommodate the elderly, disabled and pregnant.
So why has it taken so long for New York to require that employers do what ordinary strangers do every day?
Human Rights Law Will Recognize Pregnancy Related Conditions as Disability
New York State is finally poised to join 15 other states and several cities (including New York City) which mandate that employers provide pregnant workers an accommodation on the job.
On May 5, the New York State legislature passed a bill that would amend the State Human Rights Law which prohibits discrimination in employment based on an individual’s disability (among other protected categories). The new law would require employers to treat pregnancy related conditions as temporary disabilities and provide pregnant employees a reasonable accommodation to enable them to perform their job.
Such accommodations might include appropriate seating, lifting restrictions, frequent bathroom breaks, relief from hazardous duties or time off to recover from childbirth.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has vowed to sign the bill into law as part of his Women’s Equality Act initiative.
More Women Working Up Until Their Due Date
The bill recognizes that courts interpreting the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) have fallen short in protecting pregnant workers from discriminatory treatment and that the amendment to New York’s Human Rights Law is necessary to fill the gap. It specifically mentions a recent Supreme Court case which I wrote about in my blog here. That case, while spun as a victory by all parties involved, required employers to provide pregnant workers an accommodation only where they are offered to other non-disabled workers.
The number of pregnant women working up to their due date has steadily increased since the passage of the PDA in 1978. The New York Human Rights Law will provide pregnant workers the opportunity to continue working during their pregnancy without having to choose between unpaid leave, unemployment or job duties that risk complications to their pregnancy or even miscarriage.
It’s about time the State of New York recognized, in the words of the amendment, the “need to adequately protect the rights of pregnant workers”.
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Ralph A. Somma is a Long Island, NY employment lawyer who handles cases involving pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
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About the Author: Ralph A. Somma Ralph A. Somma is an experienced employment lawyer from Long Island, New York. For over 25 years, Ralph has been working to enforce workplace rights in New York and Long Island.