While closely associated with gender discrimination, pregnancy discrimination is separate and distinct in many ways. Unfortunately, employers who typically treat their female employees with respect and equality may begin to act differently when that employee requests maternity leave, or even when the employer first learns of the pregnancy. These employers may withhold promotions or pay raises that would have otherwise been forthcoming or be hesitant to hold the employee's position open. Some may even seek to terminate the employee, expecting that she may not return, anyway. Female workers who are treated differently because of pregnancy can take action. Our NY employment law attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP have successfully vindicated the rights of women who suffered this type of pervasive and deeply harmful discrimination.Why do employers discriminate because of pregnancy?
Whereas most other types of discrimination are based on prejudice and bigotry, pregnancy discrimination has much more practical underpinnings. The pregnancy of an employee sometimes presents a challenge to employers and some simply do not want to be bothered with accommodating their workers during pregnancy. Employers may not want to train a temporary replacement to fill in while the employee is on leave, may fear that the employee will ultimately not return or may have concerns that the employee will not be able to handle the workload or put in the requisite hours once she returns. These are some of the excuses employers make for discriminating against pregnant women. The fact that such practices are common does not make them right. Pregnancy discrimination is harmful to working mothers across the United States and is strictly prohibited by NYC, N.Y. and U.S. law.What laws apply to pregnancy discrimination?
The Civil Rights Act, the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law apply generally to pregnancy discrimination as a form of gender discrimination. However, several other laws specifically address the particular challenges expectant and new mothers face in the workplace:
Pregnancy Discrimination Act – The Pregnancy Discrimination Act specifically amended the Civil Rights Act to include pregnancy as a protected basis upon which an employee cannot be subject to differential treatment.
Family and Medical Leave Act – The FMLA requires employers with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for expectant parents of any gender for the birth or adoption of a child and the care of a newborn. During this period, the employer must hold the employee's position open and available for the employee's return. The FMLA also requires that the employer continue the employee's group health plan coverage during the period of leave under the same terms and conditions.
State and local human rights laws – New York's state and local human rights laws specifically prohibit discrimination based on familial status. This means that employers cannot consider the fact that an applicant or employee has young children when considering whether to hire or promote that individual. Unfortunately, this is a common practice as many employers assume that people without children, especially women, have more time and energy to focus on the job. New York law also prohibits employers from forcing pregnant employees to take leaves of absence unless pregnancy actually prevents them from doing their jobs safely. Lawmakers have recently amended the New York City human rights law to require employers to provide pregnant employees with certain reasonable accommodations and assistance so they can stay in the workplace longer during their pregnancy while still remaining safe and comfortable.
Ultimately, these laws recognize that an employer may not require a worker to choose between having children and continuing in a career. Our NYC attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP are staunch advocates for individuals who have been held back or suffered adverse employment action in the workplace due to pregnancy or parenthood.Contact us if you have suffered pregnancy discrimination
If you have been denied FMLA leave in order to deliver and care for your child or if you have been terminated, denied a promotion or not hired because of a pregnancy, you may have rights under NYC, N.Y. and U.S. law. Our team of New York City employment discrimination lawyers is well versed in the various laws that protect workers and applicants from discrimination because of gender, pregnancy or familial status. If you have experienced pregnancy discrimination as an employee or applicant, call Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP today to arrange a no-cost initial evaluation. We are available by phone at (212) 688-5640. You can also contact us online. Se habla espanol.