New York City Council Increases Job Protections for Pregnant Workers

Under Federal and New York City law, it is already illegal to discriminate against an employee because she is pregnant; since only women get pregnant, pregnancy discrimination is just a variety of sex discrimination. But pregnant women face challenges beyond overt discrimination - the physical challenges of pregnancy can make it harder to work, and with leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act limited to 12 weeks, many women work as long as they can before giving birth. Proposed amendments to the New York City Human Rights Law will make it a bit easier for pregnant women to keep working. The New York City Council passed legislation requiring employers to provide a "reasonable accommodation" to pregnant women, so long as that accommodation does not result in "undue hardship" to the employer. "Reasonable accommodation" is a familiar phrase - both New York City and Federal law require those accommodations be given to employees with a disability, but pregnancy is generally not considered a disability under those laws. If the proposed amendment is signed by the mayor, workplace accommodations for pregnant employees would be required. More frequent breaks, adjustments to work schedules to accommodate morning sickness, and relief from lifting heavy weights could all be found reasonable, depending on the job. Mayor Bloomberg should sign this amendment to law forthwith.