Oct 14, 2013

New York City Employers Required to Provide Reasonable Accommodations to Pregnant Employees

On October 2, 2013, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) requiring employers with four or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. The amendment is set to take effect on January 30, 2014.

Prior to the amendment, no federal, state, or local law required employers to provide accommodations to pregnant employees, absent a childbirth-related impairment or complication. The New York City Commission on Human Rights had already interpreted the NYCHRL to include pregnancy as a “disability” pursuant to NYCHRL § 8-102(16)(a). However, this interpretation was not being applied uniformly because many New York employers were terminating pregnant employees that requested accommodations. Therefore, the NYCHRL was amended.

Under the new law, any woman who is pregnant or has given birth is entitled to reasonable accommodation related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition that will enable her to perform the “essential requisites of her job,” as long as the accommodation does not result in an unreasonable hardship to the employer. Factors that a court may consider in relation to whether a particular accommodation constitutes an unreasonable hardship include, without limitation, the nature and cost of the accommodation, the overall financial resources of the employer, the number of employees, the effect on expenses and resources, and the impact the accommodation would have on the employer’s operations.

The law also requires New York City’s Human Rights Commission to create a written notice of employee rights under the NYCHRL pregnancy accommodation amendment that must be provided to new employees upon hire and to existing employees within 120 days of enactment. The notice also must be conspicuously posted at an employer’s place of business in an area that is accessible to employees.

New York City employers must ensure that their accommodation policies are in compliance with the amendment. If you have any questions regarding these issues, please do not hesitate to contact your employment counsel at Smith, Gambrell, & Russell, LLP.

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