What Rights Do I Have As A Pregnant Employee In New York?

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Pregnancy is an exciting time for most women, but if you are a working, expectant mother, you may worry about how your employer will react to your pregnancy and upcoming childbirth. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects pregnant women from workplace discrimination. That means your employer cannot treat you differently than any other employee simply because of your pregnancy. Examples of discriminatory action may include:

  • Termination, often attributed to downsizing or a company reorganization
  • Demotion or reduction in pay
  • Comments about your pregnancy or ability to work while you’re pregnant
  • Reassignment to less desirable work
  • Passed over for promotion

The PDA applies to all employers with 15 or more employees, although similar New York laws apply to smaller employers. Speak with an experienced employment discrimination lawyer if you think your employer has discriminated against you because of your pregnancy. Your attorney will help you determine what type of action you may take.

Pregnancy As A Disability

You may have concerns about what will happen with your job if you have health issues during your pregnancy. In New York and under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), pregnancy is treated as a short-term disability. Although you are not disabled by definition, employers must accommodate your pregnancy just as they would for any other disabled employee. Typical accommodations may include:

  • Adjusted hours
  • Light duty work or weight restrictions
  • Time off or shorter work week
  • Ability to sit more often

Your employer may request a doctor’s note or some other documentation of your need for accommodation. They may also deny accommodations that cause them undue hardship to implement. However, if your employer denies you an accommodation for your pregnancy that they provided to other employees, you may have a pregnancy discrimination case.

Taking Leave For Childbirth

When it comes time to plan for the birth of your child, you may decide to take a leave of absence to spend time with your newborn and recover from childbirth. Your entitlement to leave may vary depending on your employer and your employment situation. You may be entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal statute which allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave due to childbirth, adoption or foster placement.

The FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees. To be eligible, you must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months in the past seven years and worked at least 1,250 hours during those 12 months. FMLA also covers leave for medical conditions or to care for certain close family members. You have the right to maintain your health insurance and return to your job after your leave.

Note that the FMLA is unpaid leave. New York has recently passed the New York Paid Family Leave Law, which phases in paid leave for nearly all private employees. For example, in 2019, you may receive up to 10 weeks of leave paid at 55 percent of your normal wages. Public employers may also opt into this program, but they often must negotiate a plan with various unions. Note that some private employers have taken it upon themselves to provide more favorable paid leave policies. Consult with an attorney to find out if you are eligible for paid family leave.

Returning To Work

Unfortunately, discrimination does not always stop when new mothers return to the workplace after a leave. You or your child may have ongoing health issues and doctor’s appointments. You may still face discriminatory comments and actions regarding your ability to work and take care of your child.

Under New York law, your employer must also allow you to pump breastmilk at work for up to three years. You may either do this on your paid breaks, or you may take an unpaid break to pump. Your employer must make a reasonable effort to provide you with a private room to pump, which is not a bathroom. If your employer has not allowed you breaks to pump breastmilk at work, you may have a legal claim.

If you face discrimination from your employer during your pregnancy or leave, or after your return to work, consult with a knowledgeable pregnancy discrimination attorney in New York to find out more about your rights.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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