The New York City Council made history by strengthening their already progressive anti-discrimination laws by voting unanimously (47-0) to pass the Pregnant Fairness Act (“Act”). The Act prohibits employers with four or more employees from discriminating or firing pregnant employees because of medical issues related to their pregnancy or childbirth. The Bill also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations such as “bathroom breaks, leave for period of disability arising from childbirth, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, and assistance with manual labor” among other things.
The Act has been sent to New York City Mayor Bloomberg and the Act would become enforceable law 120 days after the date of Mayor Bloomberg’s signature. The reason this law is so significant is because pregnancy is specifically not covered under the Americans With Disability Act (“ADA”). Further, while the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) does prohibit discrimination, PDA does not require reasonable accommodations be afforded to pregnant women that are not also afforded to other employees.
At the end of the day, I believe this law will have a positive impact on both employees and employers. For pregnant employees having reasonable accommodations should produce more loyalty towards the employer and an incentive to “pay it forward” by returning to the workplace as soon as possible after the pregnancy. Employers should reap the benefits of creating a more inclusive environment such as greater employee respect and improved desire to give their absolute best efforts towards the company’s goals.
Damario Solomon-Simmons, J.D., M.Ed., is the managing partner of SolomonSimmonsSharrock & Associates, where he focuses his practice on Civil Rights, Diversity, Community & Economic Development, and Sports related matters. He can be contacted at @solospeakstruth