Jan 28, 2014 Employment Discrimination

New York City Employers Must Soon Provide Additional Accommodations for Pregnant Employees

Effective January 30, 2014, New York City employers with four or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, in accordance with a recent amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) (See Int. No. 974-A, enacted October 2, 2013). 

New Protections Provided Under This Amendment to the NYCHRL:

Prior to this amendment, New York City employers: (a) were prohibited under the NYCHRL (and similar federal and state anti-discrimination laws) from discriminating against employees and applicants on the basis of pregnancy, and (b) were required to reasonably accommodate individuals with certain pregnancy-related medical conditions. 

This amendment expands employers’ obligations to provide reasonable accommodations.  Employers must now reasonably accommodate an individual’s known “pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions” to allow the individual to perform the essential functions of the job.  This means that employers must now reasonably accommodate all pregnant employees, including employees with healthy pregnancies.  Examples of such accommodations are set forth in the legislative findings for this law, and 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.

Notably, employers will not be required to provide an accommodation if the employer can show that the accommodation will cause an undue hardship in the conduct of the employer’s business.  Factors that may be considered in determining whether an accommodation constitutes an undue hardship are:

(a)  the nature and cost of the accommodation;

(b)  the overall financial resources of the facility or the facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodation; the number of persons employed at such facility; the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact otherwise of such accommodation upon the operation of the facility;

(c)   the overall financial resources of the covered entity; the overall size of the business of a covered entity with respect to the number of its employees, the number, type, and location of its facilities; and

(d)  the type of operation or operations of the covered entity, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce of such entity; the geographic separateness, administrative, or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question to the covered entity.

Employer Notice Requirement:

Employers must provide employees with a written notice regarding this new law published by the New York City Commission on Human Rights.  (a) to existing employees by May 30, 2014; and (b) to new employees, at the commencement of employment, starting January 30, 2014.  The law also provides that this notice may be conspicuously posted at an employer’s place of business in an area accessible to employees.

Next Steps:

In light of the requirements under this new law, covered New York City employers should:

(a)  train their Human Resources staff and other employees who address an employee’s need for a reasonable accommodation regarding the new requirements under this law for accommodating all pregnant employees, including employees with healthy pregnancies;

(b)  review their current employment policies and update them if necessary to address the accommodations required under this law; and

(c)   prepare to distribute the notice required under this new law: (i) to existing employees by May 30, 2014; and (ii) to new employees, at the commencement of employment (starting January 30, 2014).    

Please do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys if you have any questions regarding your company’s obligations under this new law.

Additionally, in light of ongoing developments in the area of pregnancy accommodation in other states (e.g., pregnancy accommodation laws have recently been passed in Maryland, New Jersey, and California), multi-state employers may wish to speak with the attorney with whom they regularly work to confirm that their postings, notices, and policies are up-to-date in this area.