New York Employment Attorney, Katerina Housos Discusses Pregnancy Discrimination Laws on Greek Public Radio COSMOS FM
On Thursday May 10, 2019, one of our New York City employment attorneys, Katerina Housos, discussed the legal framework surrounding discrimination on the basis of pregnancy on her biweekly radio show Counterpoint, broadcasting live on WNYE 91.5. This past summer, a New York Times investigation found that pregnancy discrimination is still very much systematic and pervasive inside America's biggest companies even after 41 years from the passing of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which provided that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions is unlawful sex discrimination. In October, the Times also published a very powerful article titled "Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination," that recounts the disturbing experiences of pregnant women who were legally denied critical accommodations under federal law.
New York has some of the most protective pregnancy discrimination laws in the country, providing greater protections than the ones under federal law. New York bans employers with at least four employees from discriminating based on a pregnancy-related condition. This includes part-time workers and independent contractors. The State Human Rights Law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions. The New York City Human Rights Law extends this protection even further by making it an unlawful discriminatory practice to fail to make this type of accommodation. Some examples of reasonable accommodations might be extra breaks, help with manual labor, such as lifting heavy items, a modified work schedule, time off for recovery from childbirth, reassignment to a more suitable position. Employers can only deny such requests for accommodation if it would cause undue hardship to the employer or if the employee cannot, even with the accommodation, do the "essential requisites" of their job.
Treating pregnancy-related conditions differently from any other medical condition or differently from any other temporary disability also qualifies as disability discrimination. This means that if other employees are allowed to change tasks or duties to accommodate a temporary disability, the same opportunity must be afforded to pregnant women.
In NYC, the New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act also prohibits employers from forcing an employee to quit, or firing the employee, because of a current or past pregnancy. So, if an employer bases an employment decision on the fact that a person is pregnant, he may be guilty of pregnancy discrimination or wrongful termination. Likewise, pregnant employees are protected from a hostile work environment by federal, state, and city law.