Yesterday, New York City’s City Council passed a law that would prohibit employers from discriminating against pregnant employees just because they need a reasonable accommodation to continue working during their pregnancy. This is an important advance for pregnant employees because, apart from the accommodations that they routinely provide to non-pregnant employees, employers do not have to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees under New York state law or federal law. Under New York City’s new law, an employer would, for example, have to relieve a pregnant employee of certain tasks that required heavy lifting unless doing so would pose an undue hardship for the employer.
While it may seem contrary to common sense, both federal and Maine law do not require employers to provide pregnant employees with reasonable accommodations. As a result, many pregnant women jeopardize their health because their employers won’t provide them with reasonable accommodations. For instance, in New York City, a pregnant retail worker reportedly passed out and needed emergency medical care because her employer refused to permit her to carry a water bottle with her during the work day.
Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Maine legislature that was similar to the law passed in New York City but the bill was not passed. There is also a similar bill in Congress called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that has not yet gained traction either.