New York City’s antidiscrimination law expands to protect pregnant women

New York City already has some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the nation. Lawmakers in the Big Apple have passed weighty legislation against employment discrimination for everything from religion to sexual orientation.

Although New York has already taken a leadership role in curbing discrimination in the workplace, city officials are still working to further protect employees. Soon, a new bill will go into effect to add a layer of protection for another class of employees: expecting mothers.

Employers will have to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers

New York City's Human Rights Law applies to all employers with four or more workers. Under this law, employees cannot be discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of a protected status, such as race, age, disability, religion and gender. Any bias based on one of these protected categories in hiring, promotion, job duties, termination or other significant employment decisions is prohibited. A number of federal laws also prohibit discrimination in employment.

On October 2, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a new measure that will add pregnancy to the list of protected statuses under the Human Rights Law. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act extends the same protections from employment bias against pregnant workers that have already been carved out for things like race and national origin.

New York City employers will soon have to afford pregnant workers the right to "reasonable accommodations" that allow them to continue to work. Employers do not have to indulge accommodations that cause them an undue hardship, but things like bathroom and water breaks, leave for disability resulting from childbirth, periodic rest breaks, and assistance with manual tasks have all been cited as examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. According to the National Women's Law Center, approximately two-thirds of first-time mothers engage in active employment during pregnancy.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was approved by the City Council on a vote of 47-0. It will go into effect on Jan. 30, 2014.

Remedies for employment discrimination could include monetary compensation

When an employer wrongfully discriminates against an employee, there may be several types of legal remedies available. Monetary damages are one type of after-the-fact remedy to employer discrimination. For discrimination that is ongoing, injunctive relief can force employers to change their behavior, providing reasonable accommodations, for instance, or making them reinstate someone who has been discriminated against to a previously held position.

Everybody works for someone. But, that does not mean you can be treated unfairly at work. If you believe you may have been discriminated against in the workplace, get in touch with a New York employment attorney to explore your legal options.