Law Protects Women in the Work Place and Facilitates Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Employees
City Hall — Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member James Vacca, Council Member Debi Rose, Council Member Laurie Cumbo, Council Member Julissa Ferreras and elected officials today joined women’s rights leaders and a Better Balance to cheer the inaugural day of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act going into effect.
Passed unanimously by the City Council in September, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act prohibits pregnancy discrimination in the work place and allows women to request reasonable accommodations from their employers so that they can maintain a healthy pregnancy.
“No one should ever be forced to choose between their health, their family or their job,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “And now, thanks to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, they won’t have to. Starting today, pregnant women will be fully protected in the work place, and I thank Council Member Vacca, my Council colleagues, A Better Balance, Legal Momentum and NOW for helping bring this critical legislation to fruition.”
Sponsored by Council Member James Vacca, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act law requires the Commission on Human Rights to educate the public about pregnancy discrimination and create a written notice regarding employees’ rights for employers to distribute to their employees.
“Starting today, pregnant women in our city will no longer be unprotected against discrimination in the workplace,” said Council Member James Vacca, Deputy Leader. “They will never again have to risk the health of their unborn child or be forced out of work by an unreasonable or unscrupulous employer without the ability to take action. With this law going into effect, pregnant workers will have a timely and proactive channel through which they can seek reasonable accommodations at their job – such as an extra bathroom break or limited heavy lifting. I am proud to have sponsored the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which protects the thousands of working pregnant women in New York City, and hope that similar legislation will soon be enacted on a national level.”
Speaker Mark-Viverito and elected officials were joined by Sonia Ossorio, President, National Organization for Women, New York City, Dina Bakst, Co-President, A Better Balance and Lisa Hofflich, who was forced to quit her job after her employer refused to provide reasonable accommodations during her pregnancy.
“I was forced to make a choice between the safety of my unborn baby and keeping my job,” said Lisa Hofflich. “Starting at 20 weeks into a very difficult pregnancy with my first child, I made an agreement with my employer to telecommute based on my doctor’s recommendation for bed rest. However, after 6 weeks, my new supervisor reneged and gave me an ultimatum to either return to work in the office or lose my job. How could I put my baby at risk? Rather than having a firing on my employment record, I chose to resign instead and wound up giving birth prematurely just two weeks later. Thanks to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, other women in NYC will hopefully be spared what I had to endure. Just because we are pregnant does not mean we do not have rights.”
“Working while pregnant should not be a liability. Working while pregnant should not cause harm. Working while pregnant should not be a bar to employment or cause a woman to lose her job. Working while pregnant should not invoke fear. Yet during the process of passing this legislation we heard many stories of women who miscarried or whose employment was terminated just because they were “working while pregnant” and modest accommodations were not granted. This is tragic and unacceptable. Nearly two-thirds of first-time mothers work while pregnant and most stay on the job until close to their due date. Thus to discriminate based on pregnancy eliminates a large and vital part of the city’s workforce,” said Council Member Debi Rose. “This legislation is reasonable and fair. It is not onerous on employers and requires only a reasonable accommodation. It is a “no-brainer” – moving forward NYC women need no longer fear losing their job or their children because they are “working while pregnant.”
“Today is a great day for the women and families of New York City, who no longer have to fear that they will be pushed out of a job while pregnant because they need a modest accommodation in order to stay healthy,” said Dina Bakst, Co-Founder & Co-President of A Better Balance. “We applaud the City Council for passing this bill and look forward to working with them to ensure enforcement of the law, so that no pregnant woman has to choose between her job and a healthy pregnancy.”
“As of today, no woman in New York City will face the grim choice between risking her job or risking her pregnancy,” said Sonia Ossorio, President, National Organization for Women – New York City. “The law is now on her side. Establishing fair practices for pregnant workers is a matter of public health and the health our economy.”
“As the new chair of the City Council’s Committee on Civil Rights and a woman living and working in New York City, I am particularly proud of my colleagues for having the best interests of pregnant workers in mind when we passed legislation so crucially important to all expectant mothers in our city,” said Council Member Darlene Mealy, the new chair of the Civil Rights Committee. “Pregnant women will now be protected at their work places by mandating employers provide reasonable accommodations to them while their bodies nurture and grow a tiny human being. I am proud to see this legislation become reality today.”
“I first want to say that Council Member James Vacca deserves incredible recognition for his leadership on this bill,” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo. “As the Chair of the Council’s Committee on Women’s Issues, I am empowered by this vision and the movement of our city towards a more just and equitable path. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a powerful call to action. It is only humane that our laws mandate that employers provide reasonable accommodations for their workers in times of pregnancy and childbirth. Protecting the rights of pregnant women also protects the health of our future generations. Our children deserve every opportunity to enter the world in a healthy, safe, and loving environment. This bill takes great strides, and my colleagues and I will continue the fight for equity for all women and children”.
“As a new mother and the former Chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues, I am overjoyed with this opportunity we have to celebrate the pregnant worker fairness act going into effect,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras. “Every pregnant woman should have the right to request reasonable accommodation in their workplace. I applaud advocates and my colleagues in government for their work on this legislation, and I am proud that we can finally close this gap in the human rights law.”
“Women bear the health risks, discomfort, and exhaustion of pregnancy to bring future generations into our society and it is not too much to ask that they get an extra trip to the bathroom. When a pregnant woman is denied accommodations at work, it is unsafe, unfair, and discriminatory. Starting today, New York City is putting its mothers, children, and families first by ensuring that pregnant women get fair accommodations at work,” said Council Member Brad Lander.