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Baby on the Way? A Primer for Expectant Parents in the Workplace

baby on the wayWhat expecting parents expect in the workplace.

Becoming a parent can lead to many questions regarding work and career. This is especially true during the early stages of parenthood, beginning with the first announcement of pregnancy to maternity and paternity leave and the weeks and months following that time away.

In the past, employers were not always accepting of pregnancy and the early demands of parenthood, especially for female employees. Many women felt discriminated against solely based on the fact they were expecting or new mothers. And despite laws protecting pregnant women from discrimination, these laws were not always enforced.

It’s important that any new parent, especially women who are expecting, understand their rights concerning pregnancy and childbirth. Laws vary from state to state, but New York’s laws are some of the most favorable for employees.

The most expansive protection provided to pregnant employees comes under the city’s Human Rights Law. The goal is to ensure that employers do not unfairly terminate, push out of the workforce, or discriminate against pregnant employees. The guidelines, called the Legal Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination, define what constitutes a violation and gives examples of when and how employers are required to make accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related health issues.

“Employees Should Never Be Penalized for Wanting to Start or Expand their Family”

According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, “Pregnant employees should never be penalized for wanting to start or expand their family and should never have their health or safety put at risk in the workplace. Pregnant employees deserve safe work environments and the same opportunities to grow and thrive in their career.”

First Lady and the Honorary Chair of the City’s Commission on Gender Equity Chirlane McCray reiterated the mayor’s statement, saying pregnant employees should never be forced to choose between their jobs and their families. She pointed out that because women are more frequently the main earners in households these days, it’s important that employers not be able to deprive families of their livelihoods due to pregnancy. Society has changed and women losing their jobs can have a major impact on a family’s income.

The NYC Human Rights Commissioner and Chair Carmelyn P. Malalis pointed out that there are too many instances in which pregnant employees are denied basic accommodations, which creates a risk to their health and their baby’s health. Under the guidelines, pregnant employees can better understand their rights and know what they are entitled to request. It also protects them from retaliation and gives employers directions on how to negotiate accommodations without breaking the law.

Guidelines Further Define Law Passed in 2014

New York City employers have been required by law to provide pregnant employees with reasonable accommodations since 2014, but many pregnant employees continued to be denied accommodations even after that law went into effect. Many were denied promotions and were forced to put their health and/or careers in jeopardy.

The guidelines clearly define what constitutes discrimination related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions. It also provides instructions on what an employer must do to legally deny an accommodation and requires employers to initiate and engage in cooperative dialogue when an accommodation is requested. It prohibits an employer from retaliating against any requests for accommodations and clarifies the rights of employees going through fertility treatments, breastfeeding, or who have suffered miscarriages or had abortions.

Despite changes in attitudes over the last several decades concerning pregnancy and employment, many pregnant employees today continue to be denied accommodations in the workplace. This is especially common for low-wage workers. Now, because of the city’s Human Right Law and the Legal Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination, pregnant employees will have more control over their schedules, be able to take breaks when they need to do so, and request what they need to protect their bodies and their babies from complications.

To read more about the Legal Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination, check out this information from New York City.

If you are pregnant and you’ve been denied accommodations or you believe you are being discriminated against in any way because of your pregnancy or new status as a parent, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation.

Pena v. Big Mack Painting Corp. et al.; Case No.: ...
$620,000.00– Age Discrimination Case

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