The New York Times recently profiled a woman in New York City who was fired from her job after her physician told her that—during her pregnancy—she could not work overtime. When the woman presented the note to her supervisors, she was simply told that she was required to work a full schedule, and any other requests would not be accommodated. Little did the employee know that the Pregnant Worker's Fairness Act—a law only applicable at the moment to New York City employees—in fact required her employer to provide her with a “reasonable accommodation,” which in this case would likely have included a brief period of time without working overtime.
Knowing Your Rights Is the First Step to Protecting Yourself
The young woman is now being represented by a victim's advocacy group, and may very well have a strong claim that her employer violated her rights, but had she not done the legwork on her own she would never have known that her rights were being violated. Her employer certainly did not tell her, and this raises an important issue in the context of workplace rights for women.
Among other things, the New York State Human Rights Law requires that an employer engage in the “interactive process” with an employee seeking a reasonable accommodation for a disability. The American's with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) also generally do not permit an employer to simply ignore reasonable requests for leave relating to a disability or serious medical condition. It is critical, however, that an employee educate herself about those rights available to her, because more often than not we see employers simply violating the law without having made their employees aware of their rights. This applies in large or small companies, and we have seen it in the case of employees of mom and pop stores as well as several Fortune 500 companies.
As always, the best thing you can do as an employee is to educate and arm yourself with knowledge of your rights. If you question what they are give us a call, we're happy to help.
Scott Peterson by Scott Peterson | | Connect with me:
Representing plaintiffs in employment and serious injury matters.