September 24, 2013

The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded the City Council for passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act—legislation ensuring that workers are not forced out of their jobs or denied reasonable job modifications during pregnancy.

“This legislation represents an important clarification in New York’s human rights law that will enable women to more fully and equally participate in society,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Too often, women are pushed off the job because employers refuse to provide minor accommodations such as a stool to sit on, an extra bathroom break or even a glass of water.”

The new law explicitly protects pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions under the city’s expansive human rights law in much the same way workers with disabilities are protected. It clarifies for both employers and employees what constitutes discrimination against a pregnant worker.

“This is about basic fairness. Women make up almost half the workforce and are the primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of New York City’s families,” said NYCLU Policy Counsel Katharine Bodde. “Forcing pregnant women out of their jobs not only hurts women, it hurts our families, our communities and our economy.”

Similar state-wide protections were introduced in the State Legislature as a part of the Governor’s Women’s Equality Agenda. The measure passed as part of the 10-point package in the Assembly but only as a stand-alone bill in the Senate. As a result, it cannot be signed into law.