Employment Accommodation for Women During Pregnancy

Floralba Fernandez Espinal was not worried about her job—she was worried about her unborn baby. With a history of miscarriage, Ms. Fernandez was now three months pregnant and seeking relief from heavy lifting at her job at Unique Thrift in Kingsbridge. Told by her employer to obtain a note from her doctor, she did just that. Three hours after handing over the note, Ms. Fernandez was placed on unpaid leave.

Our firm represents workers who experience discrimination in the workplace. For Ms. Fernandez, a request for temporary accommodation during her pregnancy thrust her into the ranks of the unemployed. In New York, the Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act is intended to protect workers just like Ms. Fernandez.

In passing the act, the New York City Council found pregnant workers in New York are vulnerable to discrimination. Although it makes common sense to allow a pregnant woman to sit down on the job or avoid heavy lifting, the newly enacted law provides legal protection to workers who suffer discrimination because of pregnancy.

The act defines reasonable accommodation as actions that could include:

  • Water or bathroom breaks
  • Relief or assistance with manual labor or other tasks difficult due to new or advanced pregnancy
  • Other accommodation as needed that does not cause undue hardship to the business of an employer

Issues of employment discrimination during pregnancy can center on the definition of undue hardship on the employer. In the case of Ms. Fernandez, she had observed other pregnant workers temporarily moved into less strenuous positions.

If you are pregnant, you have a right to reasonable accommodation in the workplace. Speak to experienced legal counsel if your dream of starting a family in New York turns into an employment nightmare.

 

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