Today, Mayor Bloomberg signed into law an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law requiring employers with four or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. The legislation, which was earlier passed unanimously by the New York City Council, becomes effective in January 30, 2014.
According to the Council’s legislative findings accompanying the amendment, reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition may include “bathroom breaks, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, and assistance with manual labor.” Provided that an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition is known or should have been known to the employer, the employer must provide an accommodation unless it can demonstrate either that: (i) the accommodation would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business; or (ii) the employee could not perform the essential requisites of the job even with the accommodation.
Significantly, employers will also be required to provide a written notice to both existing and newly hired employees concerning their pregnancy-related rights. This notice will be developed by the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
The amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law will provide additional protections to pregnant workers as neither Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, nor the New York State Human Rights Law explicitly require employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers beyond certain pregnancy-related disabilities. In light of this new legislation, employers with operations in New York City should ensure that their reasonable accommodation policies reflect the amendments to the City Human Rights Law. Employers should also train managers and human resources personnel to recognize and effectively respond to requests for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy.