Can a Company Discriminate Against Pregnancy?

Can a Company Discriminate Against Pregnancy?

A company cannot lawfully discriminate against your pregnancy in New York City. Federal, state, and local laws forbid workplace pregnancy discrimination. If your company discriminates against you, one appropriate avenue may be to file a lawsuit for damages. However, each of these employment laws provides slightly different protection to pregnant workers. As a worker, you may be concerned about your company’s behavior but unsure whether it counts as discrimination or whether you have any recourse. At Phillips & Associates, our experienced New York City pregnancy discrimination lawyers provide free consultations. We can ask questions to determine whether we are able to assist you with your case or situation. Our record of success, strong reputation as trial attorneys, and careful attention to fluctuations in case law allow us to provide aggressive representation to those who face pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Give us a call.

When Your New York Company Has Discriminated Against Your Pregnancy

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1964 amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits pregnancy discrimination in workplaces with at least 15 employees. Discrimination can occur when an employer takes an adverse employment action against a worker based on her pregnancy. Adverse employment actions our lawyers have seen in connection with our clients’ pregnancies include:

  • Failure to hire
  • Termination
  • Failure to promote
  • Demotion
  • Pay or benefits disparities
  • Harassment
  • Denial of a reasonable accommodation even though workers temporarily disabled for other reasons receive them.

If you faced an adverse employment action based on your pregnancy, you may be able to sue for damages. But before you can sue under federal law, you will need to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can only sue for damages in federal court, and under federal law, if you’ve met this prerequisite. Once it completes its investigation, you may receive a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC, or you may ask for the Notice if you want to file a lawsuit before the investigation is complete. In many cases, the facts are murky, and you should discuss what happened to you at work with our attorneys. Once hired or retained, we can develop a strategy to pursue damages, not only under federal law, but also state and local laws.

Federal law caps compensatory and punitive damages. The cap is based on the size of your employer. You may have a claim under federal law if, for instance:

  • You and other pregnant workers at a multinational corporation were laid off during the pandemic.
  • You are regularly subjected to cruel jokes and/or derogatory comments about your pregnancy by co-workers or a supervisor who hold stereotypes about pregnant women.
  • You had always received good performance reviews, but right after you mentioned your pregnancy during the second trimester, you begin to receive negative performance reviews, and your employer seems to be setting you up for termination.

Can Your Company Discrimination Against Pregnancy Under State Law?

The New York State Human Rights Law also prohibits pregnancy discrimination and harassment in every workplace in the state. It provides significant protection against these forms of discrimination, notably because recent amendments to the law softened the standard by which you can establish a hostile work environment based on pregnancy. Punitive damages may now be obtained under state law for egregious misconduct by your employer. Under state law, you are also entitled to reasonable accommodations for your pregnancy, childbirth, or associated medical condition if providing them would not pose an undue hardship on the employer.

Many different behaviors constitute discrimination under state law. You may have a claim under the state law, for instance, if:

  • You were put on leave because you began to show your pregnancy and your employer was worried customers wouldn’t like it, even though you hadn’t asked for an accommodation.
  • You requested a reasonable accommodation in the form of bed rest for preeclampsia to avoid premature birth. Though it would not have presented an undue hardship for your employer to grant your request, your employer denied it.
  • You were passed over for a promotion because your supervisor heard that you were pregnant, even if from a coworker you told in confidence.

Can Your Company Discriminate Against Pregnancy Under City Law?

You might be able to pursue damages under the New York City Human Rights Law if you faced discrimination in a workplace with at least 4 employees. You may have a claim under the city law, for instance, if:

  • You asked for more frequent rest breaks due to physical discomforts in your pregnancy, and your employer denied this accommodation though it would not have presented an undue hardship to provide it.
  • You told a coworker you were pregnant, and it spread through the office grapevine. As a result, you were subject to derogatory remarks and treated abusively by coworkers and your manager.
  • You were recruited for a position, but you were not hired when you interviewed and mentioned that you happened to be pregnant.

Under city law, damages are not capped. In many instances, city law provides the most favorable language and case law for pregnant workers. Courts generally construe the city law to provide at least as much, if not more, protection as federal law does.

Consult Us About Your Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

Pregnancy can be a time of hope and wonder, but it can also be a time of discomfort or stress. Every pregnancy is different. It is not uncommon for women to develop medical conditions with their pregnancies and therefore need to change in the way they work, such as taking more frequent rest breaks or requiring schedule modifications to seek medical care. Many women may need time off for childbirth which can add a layer of complexity to all of this. At Phillips & Associates, our trial attorneys regularly observe that some employers still harbor unfair prejudices and assumptions about pregnant women even though it’s against the law to act on those biases in the workplace. They may discriminate in various ways against you as a pregnant worker, though it is unlikely they will outright admit it.

If you’re wondering whether a company can discriminate against pregnancy in New York City workplaces, you should call our seasoned employment discrimination attorneys. Our plaintiff’s firm fights for disabled workers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Nassau County or Suffolk County. Call us at (866) 229-9441 or complete our online form for a free consultation.

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