Next year, most employers with employees working in New York City will be required to provide reasonable
accommodations for pregnant employees. The new requirement is an amendment to the New York City
Human Rights Law and takes effect on January 30, 2014.
Under the new law, employers in New York City with four or more employees will be required to provide
reasonable accommodations needed due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,
provided that the pregnancy or condition “is known or should have been known” to the employer. The law
states that accommodations may include, “bathroom breaks, leave for a period of disability arising from
childbirth, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of
time, and assistance with manual labor, among other things.”
Accommodations need not be provided if they would pose an “undue hardship.” Factors in determining
undue hardship include the nature and cost of the accommodation, the nature of the facility, and the
finances of the business.
The law also contains a notice requirement. Covered employers must notify employees of the right to
be free from pregnancy discrimination. The notice must be given to all new employees and existing
employees. The New York City Commission on Human Rights is expected to issue more specific guidance
on the notice requirements. The new law allows employees to file complaints with the Commission or
proceed directly to court.
It is fair to say that the New York City law broadens protections for pregnant workers beyond the scope
of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the New York Human Rights
Law. Typically, those other laws have not been interpreted to require that employers accommodate a
normal, healthy pregnancy. Instead, the right to an accommodation is usually triggered only upon the
showing of a particularized need or complicating medical condition, or at the point when the pregnancy
becomes disabling (e.g., immediately before and after the birth). The effect of the New York City law is to
put a normal, healthy pregnancy on par with a disability for the purpose of workplace accommodations.
Employers with employees in New York City are advised to review their policies and procedures
concerning pregnancy and to educate supervisors and managers regarding the scope of these new
To learn more, contact Laura H. Harshbarger at (315) 218-8314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.