On September 24, 2013, the New York City Council unanimously passed an amendment to the City Human Rights Law that would require most employers in the City to provide a "reasonable accommodation" to pregnant women and those who suffer conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Under the law's requirements, a reasonable accommodation would include, among other things, bathroom breaks, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, periodic rest for pregnant women who stand for long periods of time, and assistance with manual labor. An employee would be entitled to such an accommodation upon request and with a statement from her health care provider containing sufficient facts and opinions to support it.
Employers could deny an accommodation that would impose an "undue hardship," a determination that would be based on considerations such as the nature and cost of the accommodation, the employer's financial condition, and the impact of an accommodation upon the employer's operations.
The law applies to all businesses with four or more employees, including independent contractors. If enacted, it would require employers to provide notice of its requirements to new employees at the commencement of employment, and existing employees within 120 days of enactment, unless the City Commission on Human Rights directs an earlier implementation date. The notice must be conspicuously posted in an area accessible to employees.
Individuals who believe they have been denied a reasonable accommodation will be allowed to file a complaint with the City Commission or bring an action in court against the employer.
Mayor Bloomberg has indicated his support for the bill and is expected to sign it. The effective date of the amendment will depend on the specific date of enactment.
The City enactment reflects a growing national trend of similar laws. Such statutes have recently been passed in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Alaska, Texas and Illinois. A similar provision to amend the New York State Human Rights Law is also part of the Women's Equality Act, a bill under consideration in the New York State legislature and strongly supported by Governor Cuomo.