Expecting mothers in NYC, you have rights!

NYC Pregnant Workers Act
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NYC women have something to celebrate this year!

Whether dealing with limited maternity leave and work protections, or threats of being laid-off or fired, it’s no secret that expecting mothers do not have an easy time in the US.  Despite the fact that the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act bars employer discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, pregnant workers are often forced out of their jobs or denied accommodations that allow them to keep working.

Studies have found that low-income women and women of color are more likely to be affected by this kind of discrimination, because they are more likely to hold low-paying jobs with limited flexibility. For example, more than 40% of full-time low-wage workers say they’re not allowed to decide when to take breaks.  At the same time, because nearly two-thirds of first-time mothers work while pregnant and 90% work till their last two months of pregnancy, mothers often need reasonable accommodations so that they can continue working.

Earlier this year, the New York City Council unanimously passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. bill provides additional protections against employer discrimination and also now includes “pregnant workers” as a group protected under the city’s Human Rights Law.

Under this act, all NYC employers will now have to provide all pregnant workers with (a) written information about their rights and (b) reasonable accommodations, especially if pregnant workers are still dealing with childbirth or other related medical conditions.

Reasonable accommodations include:

  • Rest breaks
  • Post-birth recovery period
  • Help with manual labor

If you are wondering what happens to employers who fail to provide the above requirements, rest assured that they face steep penalties.  Workers will be able to bring actions in civil court or bring a complaint to the city’s Human Rights Commission. Employers could be fined up to $250,000, face jail time, or be required to change their practices, provide compensation, or re-hire employees, among other remedies.

NYC joins a handful of other states (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas) which provide pregnant workers protections.  The rest of the country will have to wait to find out the outcome of the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act which was reintroduced in Congress last May.

Click here for information on other rights and protections for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers in New York.

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