An amendment to the NYC Human Rights Law, which takes effect on January 30, 2014, requires that employers with four or more employees or independent contractors provide a potentially vast array of “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant women and those who suffer medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Under the amended NYC law, examples of reasonable accommodations might include water breaks, bathroom breaks, periodic rest, and assistance with manual labor. Employers also may have to provide unpaid pre-natal leave or time off to recover from child birth. With no experience under the law to guide employers, it is difficult to know when and what accommodations must be provided. The legislative history of the new law does makes clear, though, that employers may not simply force pregnant employees to take unnecessary leave if simple job modifications would be enable them to work through pregnancy.

The NYC Commission on Human Rights has issued a Pregnancy and Employment Rights Notice detailing the new protections. After the law goes into effect, employers will be required to distribute the Notice (i) to new employees at the time of hire and (ii) to existing employees by May 30, 2014. The law encourages, but does not require, employers to post the Notice in the workplace.

Although the full extent of an employer’s obligations under the new law has yet to be tested, employers should review their policies and procedures and make any necessary changes in advance of January 31, 2014. Employers should update new hire materials and devise a plan for how to distribute the notice to current employees on or before May 30, 2014.