Discrimination and Harassment
Pregnancy and Work
Pregnant Women at Work
Pregnant women at work can be subject to unfair decision-making and treatment due to their pregnancy. When a NY employer decides not to hire an applicant or decides to demote, fire, layoff, or reduce the pay or benefits of an employee based on pregnancy, these are forms of pregnancy discrimination. Similar employment decisions that an employer makes based on a female employee’s intention to become pregnant would also be considered discrimination.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978
The PDA is a federal law that protects pregnant women at work when the company has 15 or more employees. Women, who are intending to become pregnant, who have current or past pregnancies or who suffer from a medical condition during pregnancy receive protection under the PDA.
If you have a medical condition that results in a pregnancy disability, your employer must treat you in the same manner as any other employee with a disability. For example, if your doctor prescribes bed rest and you request a pregnancy disability leave, your employer should grant it the same way a leave would be granted to any other disabled worker.
Our Legal Focus
FMLA for Pregnancy
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows employees who have worked for one year at a company with 50 or more employees to take a pregnancy leave. Under the FMLA, employers must allow employees 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave per year. A woman can take the leave after childbirth and while caring for an infant that is under a year old.
When a pregnant worker is able to work fulltime without endangering her health, it is illegal for an employer to reduce her work hours or cut her client base.
Accommodations for Pregnancy
Similar to employees with disabilities, employers must make accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions, such as allowing the pregnant worker to perform lighter work duties or transfer to another position that would avoid hazardous duties. Some women may require a modified work schedule or short breaks for rest and drinking water.
Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination
While pregnancy discrimination may be obvious in some instances, in other instances it can occur in subtle ways. The following are a few examples of pregnancy discrimination:
- Offensive jokes, insults or other harassment regarding pregnancy or pumping breast milk
- Inquiring during a job interview whether you have children or plan to have more children
- Not allowing you to sit during your duties or change your schedule due to morning sickness
- Failing to respond to your requests for reasonable accommodations
- Denying career building training because of pregnancy
- Job termination due to pregnancy or because the worker filed a pregnancy discrimination claim
Right of Nursing Mothers to Express Breast Milk
New York Labor Law requires employers to provide nursing mothers with unpaid break time or to use paid break time or mealtime so they can express breast milk. Employers must continue to provide nursing mothers with breaks for up to three years after childbirth.
The area provided should be close to the woman’s work area and offer privacy and cannot be a restroom or toilet stall. A reasonable amount of time should be allowed for expressing breast milk with each break lasting no less than 20 minutes. It the room or location is not in close proximity, then 30 minutes must be provided. Typically, breaks are allowed at least once every three hours.
The room should be well lit and clean and contain a curtain, blind or other covering for privacy and contain at least a chair, small table, desk, counter or other fact surface. There must be access to refrigeration for storing expressed milk.
NY Labor law prohibits employers from discriminating against women who choose to express breast milk in the workplace. Encouraging or allowing a work environment that is hostile to this right is considered discrimination.
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Statute of Limitations on Filing a Pregnancy Discrimination Claim
As with other employment discrimination claims, you have one-year from the last incident of pregnancy discrimination to file a lawsuit.
Are You Facing Unfair Treatment Due to Pregnancy at Work?
If you have questions or believe your employer treated you unfairly because of your pregnancy, call our office at (631) 257-5588 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation to discuss your concerns with a pregnancy discrimination lawyer.
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