Although gaining more media recognition, pregnancy discrimination remains a prominent issue in today’s workplace environment. Both federal and New York State laws extend protections to pregnant employees.
Pregnancy discrimination can result in serious consequences for women and their families. Those who are fired, demoted, or not promoted because they are or might become pregnant can face financial hardships including loss of income, health insurance, and other workplace supports. Pregnant women who are not provided reasonable accommodations in the workplace may risk their health or the health of their pregnancies.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against women on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. While it does not require employers to give time off for pregnancy, it does require that women who are pregnant to be treated the same as other employees with temporary disabilities for purposes of sick leave or temporary leave benefits.
Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an employer must abide by the following conditions:
- An employer cannot require a pregnant employee to take time off work if she can perform her job duties.
- An employer must reinstate an employee after giving birth to a child in the same manner that he or she would reinstate other employees with a temporary disability.
- An employer must give an employee on pregnancy disability leave seniority credit in the same manner that he or she would give employees seniority credit for other kinds of temporary disability.
The Family and Medical Leave Act
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employers with 50 or more employees must provide up to 12 weeks of leave each year for certain family or medical reasons, including pregnancy, childbirth, caring for a newborn child, or caring for a newly adopted child or newly placed foster care child. For an employee to be eligible, he or she must meet the following conditions:
- The employer must have at least 50 employees who work within a 75-mile radius of the employee’s worksite.
- The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period before he or she is eligible to take the leave.
Accommodations in the Workplace
In New York State, it is illegal for an employer with more than four employees to fire an employee because she is pregnant. In addition, an employer cannot change the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because a worker is pregnant, has given birth to a child, or has a related condition. In addition, an employer cannot refuse to hire an applicant because she is pregnant.
An employer must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers on the same basis as they would provide to other workers with a temporary disability.
As of January 2016, New York State law explicitly states that employers in New York must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related, including:
- Occasional breaks to drink water or rest
- A modified work schedule
- Leave for pregnancy-related medical needs
- Available light duty assignments
- Transfers away from hazardous work duties
Working While Breastfeeding
Under New York State law, it is illegal for an employer to treat an employee differently because she is breastfeeding. Mothers who are nursing are guaranteed a break time to pump breast milk at work.
In addition, an employer must abide by the following conditions:
- For up to three years after giving birth to a child, an employee has the right to take a reasonable unpaid break time or may use her paid break time or meal time each day to express breast milk at work.
- An employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a room or another location, in close proximity to the employee’s work area, where the employee can pump breast milk in private.
- An employer must not discriminate against an employee based on her decision to express breast milk at work.
The laws and regulations surrounding employment practices in New York are ever changing. It can be difficult for many employers to devote themselves to the time-consuming efforts to adjust their business practice to align by the letter of the law. When seeking how to comply with local, state, and federal laws, businesses should consult an experienced New York business and employment lawyer. The lawyers at Blodnick Fazio & Clark are experienced in handling various matters relating to business and employment law, including employment discrimination issues. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call our Nassau County employment lawyers at (516) 280-7105 or our Suffolk County employment lawyers at (631) 669-6300.