October 22, 2014 — A New York City woman profiled by the New York Times after being forced out of her job when her employer refused accommodations recommended by her doctor during pregnancy has been offered her job back, Times columnist Rachel Swarns reports (Swarns, New York Times, 10/20).
Swarns recently reported on Angelica Valencia's case as an example of how "pregnant women are still being pushed out of jobs they desperately need," despite the recently enacted New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Int 0974-2012). The law, which took effect in January, "requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers -- such as providing rest and water breaks, modified schedules and light duty -- so long as the accommodations don't cause undue hardship for the employer," Swarns explained.
According to Swarns, Valencia provided her employer with a note from her physician explaining that she should not work more than eight hours daily because of a risk to her pregnancy. Further, her co-workers agreed to help with tasks she could not safely perform, such as lifting. However, her supervisors informed her that "she could not work without a full-duty medical clearance," and she left the job (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/20).
Valencia's lawyers have said her employer, Fierman Produce Exchange, violated the city's PWFA when it did not make the accommodations. Swarns notes that Valencia is being represented by A Better Balance, a legal advocacy group, to help her receive back pay for the three months she was out of work.
Fierman Offers Job, Considering Wage Compensation
Jeffrey Pollack, a lawyer for Fierman, said that Valencia could return to work "immediately without loss of seniority and without fear of retaliation," Swarns reports.
Pollack added that the job offer was not an admission of any wrongdoing by the company or that the company had fired Valencia. He added, "We believe that this situation resulted from an unfortunate misunderstanding and Fierman intends to comply with all applicable legal requirements."
Fierman spokesperson Don Hoffman said, "We are now doing everything we can to right this wrong," adding, "The issue of back pay is part of our ongoing discussions" (New York Times, 10/20).