New York City Enhances Protections for Pregnant Workers

The New York City council expanded protections provided for mothers-to-be with the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act this September. The legislation ensures that employers in New York City reasonably accommodate the needs of pregnant workers, for example with temporary reprieves from heavy lifting duties, frequent breaks to hydrate, the ability to sit down while working behind a cash register and time off to recover after childbirth.

The bill also expands the scope of the Human Rights Law to encompass companies with four or more workers. Any employer who discriminates against expectant mothers could face civil and criminal penalties. If an employer violates the law, the state can:

  • Issue a fine of up to $250,000
  • Charge the offender with a misdemeanor with the possibility of imprisonment

Pregnant mothers who are harmed by discriminatory policies may:

  • Sue in civil court for damages and policy changes
  • File a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights, which is authorized to:
    • Issue an injunction on the discriminatory policy
    • Force the employer to rehire the worker
    • Compensate the worker for lost wages and back pay
    • Provide the worker with compensatory damages

Federal protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act provide another avenue of recourse for pregnant employees denied maternity leave or medical benefits during the 12 weeks of unpaid leave allotted by law for the arrival of a newborn. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provide additional protections.

For more information, contact New York City lawyers experienced with pregnancy-related discrimination.

 

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