The New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), one of the broadest antidiscrimination ordinances in the country, will become significantly broader as a result of a recently passed bill, which expands the protections that the NYCHRL provides for pregnant employees. The bill was passed by the New York City Council on September 24 and has been sent to the Mayor for his signature. Even if the Mayor vetoes the bill it will likely go into effect because the City Council passed the legislation unanimously.

Employers with four or more employees will be prohibited from discriminating against pregnant employees, or employees who have a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, and will be required to provide a reasonable accommodation to such workers. The bill explains that 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.”

The proposed law will apply to smaller employers and will provide significantly more protection than is currently available under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the New York State Human Rights Law, which do not require employers to provide accommodations for medical conditions relating to pregnancy or childbirth.

Employers are not required to provide accommodations that would cause an undue hardship on the employer’s business. Employers will be required to provide written notice of these new accommodation rights. Employees who believe that their employers have violated the law will have the right to elect either to file an administrative charge of discrimination with the NYC Commission on Human Rights or commence a civil action in court.

Once the new law takes effect, New York City-based employers should re-examine existing policies pertaining to the rights afforded pregnant employees.