Phillips & Associates

Dorina Cela Interview in Lawyer Monthly

Dorina Cela Interview in Lawyer Monthly

Dorina Cela is a skillful New York City pregnancy discrimination lawyer at Phillips & Associates. She recently spoke to Lawyer Monthly about pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. She discussed what pregnancy discrimination is and how employers must respond to requests for reasonable accommodations from pregnant women.

Understanding Pregnancy Discrimination

Ms. Cela explained that many pregnant women and new mothers face stigma and penalties in the workplace for having children. Both a woman and her newborn baby are substantially affected if an employer discriminates against the mother. Multiple laws protect women from workplace pregnancy discrimination. These include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. Each of these laws prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Despite this legal protection, women do suffer from pregnancy discrimination, and it can take a variety of forms. Sometimes supervisors, coworkers, customers, or clients make hostile, intimidating, or offensive comments. They may engage in conduct targeting a woman for her pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. Sometimes management reduces a pregnant woman's work hours or pay, refuses to promote her, mandates that she take leave, or disciplines her for going to pregnancy-related medical appointments during work hours. Pregnancy discrimination can also occur if an employer does not hire a job applicant because she is pregnant or terminates a woman due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions.

Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Women

The New York City Human Rights Law requires employers to give pregnant women reasonable accommodations based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Title VII also requires reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, but importantly, these are required only insofar as non-pregnant employees are also provided with these accommodations.

The New York City Human Rights Commission has issued legal enforcement guidance that states that employers that are subject to the law violate it when they do not get involved in a cooperative dialogue with a pregnant employee who needs a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions might be needed in connection with dehydration, nausea, increased hunger, infertility, breastfeeding, miscarriage, postpartum depression, and pregnancy termination. An employer can still be liable after getting involved in a cooperative dialogue for refusing to give an employee a reasonable accommodation if there is no undue hardship.

When an employee asks for pregnancy-related leave, and it presents an undue hardship for the employer, the Commission's Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination requires the employer to consider alternative accommodations. Alternatives could include working from home or a reduced work schedule. Minor accommodations involving uniforms, breaks, or modifications to a workspace or uniform should be provided. Other reasonable accommodations may include changes to the time when work starts or ends, modifications of work schedules, light or desk duty, and transfers to alternative positions.

During a dialogue about reasonable accommodations, employers should listen to what the pregnant employee is seeking. They should address the employee's unique experience and needs and should not compare her to other pregnant employees, who may have other needs.

Rights After an Employee Gives Birth

Ms. Cela explained that it is not possible to give an exhaustive list of all of the job-related actions that an employer should not take based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy. However, a general rule is to treat pregnant employees and new mothers in the same way that it treats other employees. Employers need to keep in mind that each pregnancy is different.

Once a working mother gives birth, she may be entitled to a job-protected, 12-week leave to bond with her newborn under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), if the employer is covered by the FMLA. The New York Paid Family Leave Law can also entitle a new mother to paid leave to care for a baby within their first 12 months of life. Working mothers are protected from differential treatment based on their status as a minor's caregiver under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Know More About Your Rights

If you are pregnant or a new mother, and you have been subjected to mistreatment on the job, you should consult the experienced trial attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Call us at (212) 248-7431 or contact us through our online form. We handle pregnancy discrimination litigation in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES
45 Broadway, #620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 212-248-7431
Fax: 212-901-2107

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