The Albany Times Union reported this week on a proposed stand alone bill that is making its way through the New York State legislature, which would significantly increase the protections afforded to pregnant women in New York State. The stand alone bill has become necessary because the Women's Equality Act, which is really what New York needs, has stalled twice in the state Senate as a result of political disagreement over provisions relating to abortion. The present stand alone bill would provide greater protection for women under the New York State Human Rights Law (Executive Law 296). Among the protections, the bill would classify pregnancy-related conditions as a “disability,” which would therefore require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women.
The FMLA Doesn't Protect All Pregnant Workers; Additional Protections Are Needed
The bill would also permit more frequent breaks for pregnant women, and would ensure that they were not required to be on their feet for extended periods of time. The fact that, until now, pregnant women were not offered additional protection under New York State law is astounding, particularly when considering that the New York Human Rights Law is typically considered relatively employee-friendly. While many would point to the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) as offering protection to pregnant workers, it is important to remember that the FMLA only applies to larger employers and provides absolutely no protection to those employed by small companies (which employ many, many New Yorkers). The New York Human Rights Law, on the other hand, affords protection to workers employed by much smaller employers (still, however, not sole proprietors), and therefore, if enacted, the stand alone law will ensure that tens of thousands of pregnant women in New York will be safer in the workplace.
We implore the legislature to act now and ensure that pregnant women are protected. If you have questions about pregnancy discrimination in New York contact us today at 518-308-8339. We're happy to help.
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Representing plaintiffs in employment and serious injury matters.