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Labor & Employment Alert >> NYC Employers Must Provide Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Related Medical Conditions

January 23, 2014

As of January 20, 2014, New York City employers with at least four employees must disseminate a written notice to employees setting forth that employees have the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace related to pregnancy, childbirth, and any related medical condition and are entitled to reasonable accommodation for same.  

Background
This new requirement stems from an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law, which is intended to prohibit employers from discriminating against pregnant women and women recovering from childbirth by firing, placing on unpaid leave, or removing pregnant and recovering women from their positions.  Notably, due to the broad definition of “employee” under the New York City Human Rights Law, independent contractors are also considered “employees” for purposes of the new law.  

The notice is available here, and employers should conspicuously post the notice in common areas, immediately disseminate it to existing employees, and give the notice to all new employees upon hire.

New Law Implications
Under the law, if an employer knew or should have known of the employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, then the employer is obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation to that employee – if such reasonable accommodation would enable the employee to perform “the essential requisites of the job,” and if it would not pose an “undue hardship” to the employer.  

The employer has the burden to prove “undue hardship.” Factors considered in determining “undue hardship” include the cost and nature of the accommodation, the employer’s financial resources, the number of total employees, the impact on the employer of providing the accommodation, and the type of employer.

Types of typical accommodations contemplated by the new law include:

  • Bathroom breaks
  • Breaks for increased water intake
  • Leave for disability during childbirth
  • Periodic rest for those who stand for long periods
  • Assistance with manual labor
  • Unpaid medical leave

 

 

Bottom Line

Employers must engage in an interactive process with employees to determine reasonable accommodations that will allow impacted, covered employees to perform “the essential requisites of the job” without posing an undue hardship to the employer.  The new notice should set forth that employees have the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace related to pregnancy, childbirth, and any related medical condition, and are entitled to reasonable accommodation for same.  This should be added to new hire paperwork, disseminated to existing employees – by handbook amendment or other dissemination tool – and posted in common spaces.