Worker Receives Over $26,000 in Settlement of Pregnancy Discrimination Claim in New York

Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is a serious problem in workplaces all over the country. New York City pregnancy discrimination attorneys help workers who lost their jobs, been demoted, or were placed on unpaid leave when their employers learned that they were pregnant, to name only a few examples of how this type of discrimination can occur. The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) offers more protections than many anti-discrimination laws. It requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and employees who have recently given birth. The New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) is responsible for enforcing city law, either by bringing actions directly against employers or by authorizing employees to file their own lawsuits. Earlier this year, the NYCCHR announced that it had settled a pregnancy discrimination claim involving reasonable accommodations. The settlement included more than $46,000 in civil penalties and damages for the employee.

At the federal level, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 added discrimination based on “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” to the definition of sex discrimination found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). Federal law is less clear, however, on the issue of reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and childbirth. Many people need adjustments to their work schedule, work environment, or job duties during pregnancy or after giving birth. This may include additional breaks for water or to use the restroom, additional time to sit down, or temporary restrictions on lifting heavy objects. After giving birth, workers who are breastfeeding might need time and a private location to express milk. The NYCHRL requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for these needs. N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22).

The employee in the case mentioned above worked as a line cook at a restaurant in New York City. In early 2016, she reportedly notified her supervisors about her pregnancy and told them that she could not lift heavy boxes due to medical restrictions. According to the NYCCHR, the employer refused to accommodate her for the lifting restriction unless she provided medical documentation. The NYCCHR states that this violates city law. The employee filed a complaint with the agency, which launched an investigation of the employer.

The NYCCHR’s investigation, followed by negotiations with the employer, went on for several years. In the summer of 2020, the NYCCHR and the employer reached a conciliation agreement. Under this agreement, the employer paid the city $10,000 in civil penalties and $10,000 in attorney’s fees. It also paid the employee $11,220 in back pay and $15,000 in damages for emotional distress.

In addition to the monetary damages and penalties, the employer must provide new training to the managers at all of its locations in New York City. It must update its employee handbook to include information on reasonable accommodations under the NYCHRL and post notices published by the NYCCHR. The employer must provide updates on its progress to the NYCCHR for one year.

The employment lawyers at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of New York City employees and job seekers in claims for pregnancy discrimination and other unlawful practices. Please contact us today online or at (866) 229-9441 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

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