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Council Puts Protections for Pregnant Workers Into NYC Law

By Colby Hamilton | September 24, 2013 3:55pm
 City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and council members ahead of a meeting on Sept. 12, 2013.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and council members ahead of a meeting on Sept. 12, 2013.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

CIVIC CENTER — The City Council passed legislation on Tuesday designed to prevent discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace, closing a loophole that left a grey area between federal protections and those on the books in New York City.

The law, which takes effect once Mayor Michael Bloomberg signs it into law, requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to their pregnant employees, and it would also give pregnant workers the standing to sue if they feel discriminated against, officials said.

“No woman and no family should ever have to be forced to choose between the health of the woman, the health of the baby, and her job,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said at a press conference announcing the legislation.

"This bill, when it becomes law, will ease the burden that often occurs when pregnant women request accommodations, without fear of repercussions that could result in the loss of a job."

Many of the provisions are already included in federal law, however advocates said it was necessary to put them on the books in NYC law to prevent any loopholes.

The bill’s sponsor, Bronx Councilman Jimmy Vacca, said the legislation would provide clearer guidelines for both employers and employees than are currently in the city's Human Rights Law. He called the new legislation “proactive,” in ensuring “the health needs and the accommodations that we often take for granted are often given to expecting mothers” would now be “codif[ied] into law.”

Examples of accommodations for pregnant workers include reassigning those in manual labor jobs to lower-impact positions, giving seats to checkout workers and others in retail jobs and making sure pregnant women are allowed to drink water on the job to remain hydrated, Quinn and Vacca said.

Under the legislation, pregnant employees who believe they've been discriminated against would be able to seek damages in civil court. Employees will also be able to file a complaint with the city’s Human Rights Commission, which can levy heavy fines of up to $250,000 against employers and demand that companies reinstate employees who were wrongfully terminated.

Representatives for Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he supported the legislation.