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NYC Employment Lawyer > Blog > Employment Discrimination > Is Being Pregnant A Protected Characteristic?

Is Being Pregnant A Protected Characteristic?


When a person becomes pregnant, it is usually considered a happy occasion in the family. However, some employers will see a pregnancy as an opportunity to cut that employee’s hours, deny them advancement, or to generally not treat the employee the same as any other, non-pregnant person. The average person might think temporary conditions like pregnancy are not covered under antidiscrimination laws, simply because pregnancy comes to an end, but New York City, state, and U.S. federal law all protect pregnant people from unfair treatment. You have the right to seek redress if it happens to you.


The New York City and state laws barring pregnancy discrimination are similar, but not identical; the cause of action for pregnancy discrimination in both situations is based on gender the city Human Rights Law in particular contains language requiring it be narrowly construed, in order to “maximize deterrence” of discriminatory behavior. What this means is that under city law, it requires less to potentially prevail on a claim of discrimination than it might under state or federal law.

The state law, like the city law, forbids any covered employer (which is nearly every employer, with rare exceptions) from refusing to hire, firing, or changing the ‘terms and conditions of employment’ of any employee because they are pregnant. Pregnant employees also have the right to return after a leave taken due to pregnancy or any related condition, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. If any of these potential negative employment actions happen to you while you are pregnant, it is your right to either file suit, or file a complaint with the city or state Human Rights Commission.

Reasonable Accommodations Available

Your employer is not able to discriminate against you as a pregnant person, but they must also provide reasonable accommodations, if it is not an undue burden on them to do so. Be aware that under New York State law, in order to receive accommodations, you must be able to establish that your pregnancy creates a temporary disability. This is not the case in New York City; reasonable accommodations must be granted regardless of the pregnant person’s level of disability.

In addition, it is worth noting that the New York state and city pregnancy discrimination laws refer, at least as of this writing, to women only, and pregnancy discrimination law is referred to as based in gender discrimination. Depending how the law is interpreted in any specific challenge, this may leave transgender pregnant people out in the proverbial cold, but given the current lack of jurisprudence on the issue, this may be a question that will have to be decided when a specific case arises.

Call A New York Employment Discrimination Attorney

A pregnant employee should be able to enjoy the impending birth of a new member of their family without having to worry about their job security or advancement prospects. If you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy, calling an NYC employment discrimination attorney from Mansell Law, LLC can help answer any questions you might have about how to proceed with a potential claim. Call our offices today at 646-921-8900 for a free consultation.



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