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New York State legislatures passed a bill Tuesday aimed at preventing employers from discriminating against their pregnant employees.
Under the new law, companies will be required to grant pregnant workers certain accommodations so they can stay on the job, unless the employer can prove that their time at work will create excessive hardship. Some of these changes can be as minor as providing a stool for pregnant workers to sit on, allowing more frequent bathroom breaks throughout the workday or enforcing light duty for women with lifting restrictions. According to the Census Bureau, more and more women will benefit from these adjustments as the number of first-time mothers working while pregnant has increased from 44 percent in the 1960s to 66 percent between 2006 and 2008.
While previous laws, such as the The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, have been passed to help fight workplace discrimination against pregnant women, it’s clear that many working mothers are still not treated equal. Currently across the country, there is an estimated quarter million women who are denied accommodation requests each year, forcing them to go on unpaid leave, get fired or experience health complications. In parts of New York, such as New York City, there is a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that makes it clear that employers have to satisfy the needs of their pregnant employees. However, that law does not apply to the entire state. Earlier this year Henrietta, New York resident Betzaida Cruz Cardona opened up to Think Progress about the lawsuit she filed against her former employer who fired her from her cashier job just hours after she handed in a doctor’s note that excused her from lifting more than 25 pounds even though her job description never required her to do so.
New York State’s latest bill, which Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will sign, will allow New York to join 15 other states who have already passed laws protecting pregnant workers. A federal bill covering all women has been introduced to Congress multiple times, but has yet to be passed.