On September 24, 2013, the New York City Council passed a bill expanding the New York City Human Rights Law to include pregnancy discrimination. The bill now goes to the Mayor for his review. If the Mayor signs it, the new law will go into effect 120 days later. If the Mayor vetoes it, the bill will go back to the City Council, which can enact the bill over his veto through a two-thirds majority vote. Since the bill passed by a unanimous 47-0 vote, the bill is highly likely to go into effect even if it is vetoed by the Mayor.
Under the new law, NYC employers with four or more employees will have a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women and those who suffer medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth, unless the employer affirmatively can demonstrate that such an accommodation will result in an undue hardship. Examples of reasonable accommodations listed in the bill 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.
The Legislative Intent section of the bill suggests that, where a female employee requests a reasonable accommodation in order to maintain a healthy pregnancy, it is not reasonable for the employer to place her on unpaid leave. Based on this Legislative Intent language, the bill may be interpreted to require employers to provide pregnant employees with either assistance to perform certain tasks, reduced job duties, or an alternative position during the pregnancy.
Employers will be required to provide written notice of these new pregnancy and childbirth accommodation rights after the law goes into effect. Employees who believe their employers have violated the new law will have the ability to file a claim with the New York City Commission on Human Rights or pursue a private right of action in court without first exhausting administrative remedies.
Based upon other recent legislation, this bill appears likely to become law within the next 4-5 months. Check back here for additional updates. Day Pitney LLP is available to discuss with NYC employers the best strategies to ensure compliance with the requirements of this bill.