Testimony to the New York City Commission on Human Rights on Pregnancy Discrimination

On Wednesday, January 30, 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights held a hearing at the CUNY School of Law on pregnancy and caregiver discrimination. Legal Momentum submitted written testimony highlighting the persistent prevalence of pregnancy and caregiver discrimination despite the passage of critical protections in New York City. The testimony is available here for download as a PDF.

“[D]iscrimination on that basis of pregnancy or caregiver status undermines the wellbeing and economic security of too many women and their families. Despite the passage of critical federal, state, and local legislation, pregnant women and women with caregiving responsibilities are systematically denied raises, passed over for promotions, or fired, often because they requested adjustments to their schedules, pushed for work-life balance, requested a reasonable accommodation, or reported discrimination. Today, getting pregnant still threatens to drastically and negatively alter a woman’s economic security or career trajectory, and the consequences of this discrimination can be financially debilitating.”

Legal Momentum’s testimony sought to shed light on employers’ general lack of understanding of their obligations to provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations when requested.

“Under the predominant workplace culture, employers’ knee-jerk reaction is to deny a request for a reasonable accommodation without sincerely considering the feasibility of the request or practical alternatives. The increasingly popular option of unpaid leave is an easy way for an employer to offer something without having to do anything. Pregnant workers, who generally have little to no internal information about available options, have little leverage to push back when an accommodation is flatly denied or when they are put on perpetual hold.”

Recognizing these shortcomings, we encouraged the commission to convene a task force of employers and employees, particularly those in high-risk industries, to identify challenges and develop practical solutions to ensure that employers are adequately accommodating pregnant workers in need of workplace adjustments.