Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination happens when an employer makes an employment decision based on your pregnancy or intent to become pregnant and not your skills, qualifications, or how well you do your job.  Federal, New York State, and New York City laws make pregnancy discrimination by employers illegal. New York State and New York City laws cover more cases than federal law. 

Federal law protects many workers from being discriminated against based on pregnancy.  If you work for (or apply for a job with) an employer that has 15 or more employees, federal law does not allow the employer to base employment decisions on the fact that you are or intend to become pregnant. 

New York State and New York City human rights laws cover more cases than the federal law. If you work for (or apply for a job with) an employer that has 4 or more employeesthe state and city laws do not allow the employer to base employment decisions on the fact that you are or intend to become pregnant. 

An employer is not allowed to consider your pregnancy when deciding to hire, fire, pay, give job assignments, promote, layoff, train, change benefits, or affect any other condition of employment. In addition, under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), certain larger employers may be required to give you up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during the year after childbirth.  Furthermore, New York State law provides job-protected paid family leave (PFL) to eligible employees to bond with a newborn child.  While you are on such protected leave, your job must generally be held open and you must be given your job back or a similar job with the same benefits when you return. 

If you are able to do your job while pregnant, you generally must be allowed to keep working.  

However, even if you are impaired or limited in some way by your pregnancy or childbirth, you may still have certain protections.  For instance, medical impairments or complicationdue to pregnancy or childbirth may be considered a disability protected by laws prohibiting disability discrimination, in which case your employer must make the same reasonable accommodation for you as it would for any other disabled employee.  Furthermore, regardless of whether you may have a disability, New York City law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy.  Reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions may include altering work tasks or work hours; providing bathroom breaks, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, or assistance with manual labor; or offering a leave of absence. 

Here are some examples of possible pregnancy discrimination: 

  • Before a scheduled promotion, you tell your employer that you are pregnant, and your boss assumes that your pregnancy will become a problem and gives the promotion to someone else; 
  • You apply for a job that you are qualified for and the interviewer tells you that when women get pregnant, it is “a scheduling nightmare” for the company and its clients. The interviewer knows you are pregnant and you don’t get the job; 
  • Your employer starts training all employees, except for you and two other pregnant coworkers, on new equipment or software that is very important for the future plans of the company; 
  • You work in New York City and you lose your job because your pregnancy required you to take more bathroom breaks than everyone else. 

Legal Editor: Davin P. Cellura, January 2015 (updated October 2018)

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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