New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his city's Human Rights Commission released a new series of guidelines Friday that prohibit bars and other establishments from refusing to serve pregnant women alcohol.
Before Friday there was no express city prohibition against establishments refusing to serve a pregnant woman alcohol or raw fish, and even from barring pregnant women from their their premises.
The guidelines, unveiled by the mayor and Human Rights Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis, define what constitutes a violation of city's existing human rights law.
"Judgments and stereotypes about how pregnant individuals should behave, their physical capabilities and what is or is not healthy for a fetus are pervasive in our society and cannot be used as pretext for unlawful discriminatory decisions," the guidelines read.
Explicitly named as examples of violations were "a restaurant policy that prohibits staff from serving pregnant individuals raw fish or alcohol" and "a bouncer [denying] a pregnant individual entrance to a bar based on the belief that pregnant
individuals should not be going to bars and/or drinking alcohol."
Though federal health officials advise total abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy, and many studies have shown that alcohol abuse can harm the fetus, some studies have found that light alcohol use during pregnancy has no negative effect on the child.
The guidelines were also written to ensure that pregnant women are not discriminated against by their employers, and are able to work in safe and healthy environments.
The guidelines ensure that pregnant women are provided with reasonable time off and bathroom breaks, that they are not fired or passed over for promotions due to their state, and that employers grant "reasonable requests," such as seating, allowing snacking at work, reassignment of strenuous activities, and unpaid leave to recover from childbirth.
In 2014 New York passed a law requiring employers to provide their pregnant employees with "reasonable accommodations" at work, but a report by the National Women's Law Center found that over 75% of low-wage workers reported their employers not allowing them basic accommodation for their state.
The Commission hopes the new guidelines will "enable pregnant employees to understand their rights so they can request reasonable accommodations without fear of retaliation," Malalis said in a statement.
"Pregnant employees should never have to choose between their jobs and having a family," said First Lady of New York Chirlane McCray at a press conference Friday.
"Women increasingly serve as the primary breadwinners for their families, working later into pregnancy than ever before," she said. "Employers should not be allowed to deprive employees of their livelihood because they are pregnant. When women suffer, so do their families."
Read the guidelines:
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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