This is the third in a series of articles on the employment protections that are now law as part of the Women’s Equality Agenda, a series of eight bills signed by Governor Cuomo on October 21, 2015. Part I may be found here. Part II may be found here. Part IV may be found here. Part V may be found here.
Accommodating Pregnancy Related Conditions
Women who are pregnant sometimes experience temporary impairments with respect to their ability to work. In some cases women experience pregnancy related complications that require work related accommodations. In other cases jobs may have certain strenuous physical demands that may be require accommodations even for pregnant women without complications.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to make accommodations for pregnant workers similar to those that they make for disabled employees. In a prior post we highlighted the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS which set the framework for analyzing such claims under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act expanded the definition of “disability” to cover temporary impairments that may often include impairments as they relate to pregnancy.
S.8/A.4272 amends the New York State Human Rights Law to require employers to make accommodations for employees with pregnancy related conditions just as they must do for employees with disabilities. A “pregnancy related condition” is defined as:
“A medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth that inhibits the exercise of a normal bodily function or is demonstrable by medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques.”
The law further provides that pregnancy shall be treated as a temporary disability.
Under the new law, a business must make an accommodation for a pregnant woman if that accommodation does not cause undue hardship and the employee can perform all essential functions of the job with accommodation.
The new law clarifies the rights of pregnant workers and the obligations of the employer. It will still require analysis on a case by case basis to determine if an accommodation is reasonable. Nevertheless pregnant workers in New York will not be subject to the uncertain legal interpretations courts may give to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It should be noted that New York City already passed its own law requiring accommodations of pregnancy related conditions, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in October of 2013. The New York State legislature has now placed pregnant workers throughout the state on the same legal footing as their counterparts in New York City.