New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, recently signed into law an amendment to the already broad New York City Human Rights Law making it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation to the needs of an employee who is pregnant or has a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. The law, effective January 30, 2014, specifies that in such circumstances, a reasonable accommodation “may 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, among other things.” No accommodation is required, however, if it imposes an “undue hardship” on the employer.
Similar legislation has been introduced, but not yet passed, in the New York state legislature and the United States Congress. States such as Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas have passed similar laws.
New York City employers should consider updating their employee trainings and internal procedures concerning reasonable accommodations to include this new pregnancy-specific requirement. It is important both to ensure that managers are educated to appropriately process such accommodation requests and to refrain from retaliating against pregnant employees requesting such accommodations.