Know Your Rights

Knowledge is power! As you navigate caring for yourself and your loved ones while earning a paycheck, a combination of federal, state, and local workplace laws can help ensure you are free from discrimination and have the time and support you need.

This state-by-state guide is organized into five tabs based on the situations that may be prompting you to seek information about your legal rights. Many of the laws we address overlap and can be used for different purposes, and are therefore discussed under more than one tab.

For more information about how these laws may apply in context of COVID-19, visit abetterbalance.org/covid19

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

New York

When you are sick—be it with a bad cold or more serious illness or injury—you may need time off from work to rest and heal. Federal, state, and local laws may give you time off when you need it and protect you from employment discrimination.

* In 2020, New York State passed a statewide paid sick and safe time law. Workers can begin using earned sick time beginning January 1, 2021.

** If you work in New York and have questions regarding your rights to leave and benefits for Covid-19 related needs, see here for A Better Balance’s comprehensive FAQs.

Taking Time Off Work

  • As of January 1, 2021, if you are covered, New York’s paid sick leave law gives you the right to take time off from work without losing your job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • If your employer has 100 or more employees, you can earn and take up to 56 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has between 5 and 99 employees, you can earn and take up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 4 or fewer workers and a net income of more than 1 million dollars in the previous tax year, you can earn and take up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 4 or fewer workers and a net income of 1 million dollars or less in the previous tax year, you can earn and take up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per year.
    • Under this law, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, spouse or domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
    • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • The state law set a minimum standard for paid sick leave. If you work in New York City you may have additional paid sick and safe time rights.
  • If you live in New York City, the New York City Earned Safe & Sick Time Act gives you the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • Until January 1, 2021, you have the right to take up to 40 hours of sick time a year, that you can use for your own or a family member’s health needs (like an illness or a check-up).
      • If your employer has 5 or more employees in NYC, that time must be paid.
      • If your employer has fewer than 5 employees in NYC, your sick time may be unpaid, but you can’t be fired or punished for taking it.
      • If you are a domestic worker and do not work for an agency, your time must be paid, regardless of how many employees your employer has.
    • Beginning on January 1, 2021, the amount of time you will be able to use will depend on the size of your employer.
      • If your employer has 99 or fewer workers, you can use up to 40 hours per year.
      • If your employer has 100 or more workers, you can use up to 56 hours per year.
      • If your employer has fewer than 5 workers and a net income of less than $1 million in the last tax year, your sick time may be unpaid—but you can’t be fired or punished for taking it.
      • If you are a domestic worker and do not work for an agency, your time must be paid, regardless of how many employees your employer has.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or for any other blood relative (such as an aunt, cousin, etc.) or any other individual whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship (such as a close friend who is like family, a significant other, etc.).
    • You also have the right to use “safe time” to address certain non-medical needs that may arise if the worker or a family member are victims of domestic violence, a sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking.
    • Sick time can also be used when your place of business is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency
    • You only need to provide a note from a health care provider if you need sick time for more than 3 consecutive days of absence (and the note does not have to specify your illness). However, if your employer requests a note from a health care provider, they must reimburse you for any fee your health care provider charges you to provide documentation.
    • To learn more about the law, see here or here.
    • Additionally, the agency that enforces the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act released guidance providing additional examples of ways that sick time can be used for coronavirus-related reasons, including taking time off work because the worker is under quarantine, is self-isolating for preventative purposes, or is caring for a family member under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine.
  • If you are an employee in New York and you need time off from work for certain reasons related to COVID-19, New York’s emergency quarantine-related paid sick leave law may give you the right to take paid time off from work without losing your job.
    • This law applies only to certain sick leave needs related to quarantine for the coronavirus. Employees can take time off when they are subject to a specific, personal government-issued mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation.
    • The law applies to public agencies and private entities regardless of size, but provides different rights depending on the size and other characteristics of the employer.
    • Emergency sick leave is separate from and does not count against employee’s accrued sick leave or other accrued paid leave (like PTO).
    • All covered employees are protected against retaliation for using their rights under the law and are entitled to return to their jobs following leave.
    • For more detailed information about New York’s emergency quarantine-related paid sick leave law, see here.
    • For information about COVID-19 benefits & paid leave for New York workers, see here.
  • If you are unable to work due to your non-occupational illness or disability, you may qualify for paid benefits through New York’s Temporary Disability Insurance program.
    • You can receive TDI for up to 26 weeks in a year or for any particular “period of disability.”
    • There is a one-week unpaid waiting period for all TDI benefits.
    • These payments are small—only 50% of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $170.00 per week.
    • The TDI law does not provide job protection. This means that unless you have the right to job protection under another law, like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), your employer does not have to hold your job for you while you are receiving TDI benefits.
    • For more information, see here.
  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. You must: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and 2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and 3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for your own serious medical needs, including those related to pregnancy and recovery from childbirth. You may also take the leave on an intermittent basis or may work on a reduced schedule.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
    • For more information about the Family and Medical Leave Act, see here.
  • If you were hurt while working or became sick as a result of your job, you may also be entitled to paid benefits and other protections through Workers’ Compensation.
  • If you lose your job due to your own medical needs, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

Reasonable Accommodations and Anti-Discrimination Laws

  • The New York State Human Rights Law bans disability discrimination at all workplaces regardless of size. Should your disability require some changes to your position, your boss must provide you with a reasonable accommodation so that you can perform your job, unless it would be very difficult or expensive for them to do so. A reasonable accommodation can include anything from changes to your workspace to modifying your work schedule to restructuring your job.  The New York City Human Rights Law also bans disability discrimination at workplaces with 4 or more employees and requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities unless it would be very difficult or expensive for them to do so. While the City and State laws provide similar protections, the City Human Rights Law generally provides protection for a broader range of disabilities.
    • Under the New York State Human Rights Law, your employer must provide you with reasonable accommodations if you are transgender and undergoing medical treatment to transition. Moreover, your employer cannot discriminate against you for health needs related to transitioning.
    • New York City Human Rights Law also mandates that employers provide reasonable accommodations for a disability based on gender identity and protects against employment discrimination for medical needs related to gender identity.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers in the U.S. with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities and makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers with disabilities. Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, which can include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. This means:
    • Your boss cannot fire you, refuse to give you a promotion, or harass you because you have a disability.
    • If you have a disability, your boss cannot refuse to give you small changes at work that you need to stay healthy, like breaks to take medication, temporary relief from heavy lifting, or a stool to sit on during your shift. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations” and are available as long as you can still complete the basic duties of your job with those changes. Your boss does not have to give you an accommodation that would be very difficult or expensive, like building a whole new office.

If you identify as a woman, you can also find more about your workplace rights in New York by visiting our New York Working Woman’s Pocket Guide.  

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance’s free work-family legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When you are sick—be it with a bad cold or more serious illness or injury—you may need time off from work to rest and heal. Federal, state, and local laws may give you time off when you need it and protect you from employment discrimination.

* In 2020, New York State passed a statewide paid sick and safe time law. Workers can begin using earned sick time beginning January 1, 2021.

** If you work in New York and have questions regarding your rights to leave and benefits for Covid-19 related needs, see here for A Better Balance’s comprehensive FAQs.

Taking Time Off from Work

  • As of January 1, 2021, if you are covered, New York’s paid sick leave law gives you the right to take time off from work without losing your job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • If your employer has 100 or more employees, you can earn and take up to 56 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has between 5 and 99 employees, you can earn and take up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 4 or fewer workers and a net income of more than 1 million dollars in the previous tax year, you can earn and take up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 4 or fewer workers and a net income of 1 million dollars or less in the previous tax year, you can earn and take up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per year.
    • Under this law, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, spouse or domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
    • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • The state law set a minimum standard for paid sick leave. If you work in New York City you may have additional paid sick and safe time rights.
  • If you live in New York City, the New York City Earned Safe & Sick Time Act gives you the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • Until January 1, 2021, you have the right to take up to 40 hours of sick time a year, that you can use for your own or a family member’s health needs (like an illness or a check-up).
      • If your employer has 5 or more employees in NYC, that time must be paid.
      • If your employer has fewer than 5 employees in NYC, your sick time may be unpaid, but you can’t be fired or punished for taking it.
      • If you are a domestic worker and do not work for an agency, your time must be paid, regardless of how many employees your employer has.
    • Beginning on January 1, 2021, the amount of time you will be able to use will depend on the size of your employer.
      • If your employer has 99 or fewer workers, you can use up to 40 hours per year.
      • If your employer has 100 or more workers, you can use up to 56 hours per year.
      • If your employer has fewer than 5 workers and a net income of less than $1 million in the last tax year, your sick time may be unpaid—but you can’t be fired or punished for taking it.
      • If you are a domestic worker and do not work for an agency, your time must be paid, regardless of how many employees your employer has.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or for any other blood relative (such as an aunt, cousin, etc.) or any other individual whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship (such as a close friend who is like family, a significant other, etc.).
    • You also have the right to use “safe time” to address certain non-medical needs that may arise if the worker or a family member are victims of domestic violence, a sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking.
    • Sick time can also be used when your place of business is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency
    • You only need to provide a note from a health care provider if you need sick time for more than 3 consecutive days of absence (and the note does not have to specify your illness). However, if your employer requests a note from a health care provider, they must reimburse you for any fee your health care provider charges you to provide documentation.
    • To learn more about the law, see here or here.
    • Additionally, the agency that enforces the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act released guidance providing additional examples of ways that sick time can be used for coronavirus-related reasons, including taking time off work because the worker is under quarantine, is self-isolating for preventative purposes, or is caring for a family member under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine.
  • If you work in New York City, you may also have the right to a temporary schedule change to address certain personal events including the need to care for a minor child or a care recipient.
  • If you are an employee of a private sector (non-government) employer in New York and you need time off from work to care for a minor dependent child who is subject to a specific, personal government-issued mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19, you may be eligible for special paid family leave benefits. See here for more information.
  • If you work in New York and need time off because your child or other family member has a more serious health issue, you may be eligible for New York Paid Family Leave (NYPFL). This program provides paid time off when you need to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children); care for a seriously ill family member (child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, or grandparent); or address certain military family needs.
    • If you’re employed outside the government in New York State, either full-time or part-time, you’re probably covered under the law, regardless of how many people work for your employer. The law applies regardless of immigration or citizenship status.
    • You have the right to take bonding leave at any point within the first 12 months following a child’s birth or placement for adoption or foster care. If a child has two parents, each parent (of any gender) has the right to take the maximum allotment of paid family leave for bonding.
    • You can take paid family leave to care for your child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse (including a same-sex spouse), domestic partner, grandchild, or grandparent when that person has a serious health need. These needs can include a serious physical or mental illness, injury, or condition.
    • In 2020, you can take up to ten weeks of family leave. In 2021, you will be able to take up to 12 weeks of leave.
    • In 2020, you can receive 60% of your average weekly pay, up to a cap. In 2021, you can receive 67% of your average weekly pay, up to a cap.
    • You can start receiving benefits six months after your start date. If you work less than 20 hours per week, you may need to work for slightly longer (175 days) to qualify
    • Your job must be protected while you are on leave. You have the right to return to work. If you receive healthcare coverage through your employer, you also have the right to keep your healthcare coverage under its current conditions.
    • If you gave birth, you may be able to receive Temporary Disability Insurance benefits (discussed below) to recover from childbirth and then take NYPFL to bond with your child, though you cannot receive both benefits at the same time. 
    • For A Better Balance’s comprehensive Know-Your-Rights guide to NY Paid Family Leave, see here.
  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it). See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” section above for more information on this law.
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. To qualify, you must (1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and (2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and (3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for a seriously ill family member. Under the FMLA, covered family members include a worker’s son or daughter under the age of 18 (or an adult child unable to care for him or herself due to a physical or mental disability), spouse, and parent.
    • The FMLA defines “son or daughter” to include a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis. For more information about protections the FMLA provides for LGBT families, see here.
    • You may also take the leave on an intermittent basis or may work on a reduced schedule to care for a seriously ill family member.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
    • For more information about the Family and Medical Leave Act, see here.
  • If you lose your job because you have family caregiving responsibilities, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

Special Protections for Veterans’ and Military Families

  • If a covered family member is on active duty abroad or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty abroad in the Armed Forces (including National Guard and Reserves), you may be eligible for paid time off under the New York Paid Family Leave
    • If you’re employed outside the government in New York State, either full-time or part-time, you’re probably covered under the law, regardless of how many people work for your employer. The law applies regardless of immigration or citizenship status.
    • This leave can be taken to:
      • Make arrangements for the care or education of the servicemember’s child or the care of the servicemember’s parent;
      • Attend official military events or support programs;
      • Spend time with a servicemember for up to 15 days during a short-term, temporary rest and recuperation leave during deployment.
    • You can take paid family leave in connection with your child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, or domestic partner’s deployment.
    • If your servicemember is notified of an impending call or order to active duty abroad with less than 7 days’ notice, you can take paid family leave for up to 7 calendar days to address any need that arises as a result of that short-notice deployment.
    • In 2020, you can take up to ten weeks of family leave. In 2021, you will be able to take up to 12 weeks of leave.
    • In 2020, you can receive 60% of your average weekly pay, up to a cap.
    • In 2021, you can receive 67% of your average weekly pay, up to a cap.
    • Your job will be protected while you are on leave. You have the right to return to work. If you receive healthcare coverage through your employer, you also have the right to keep your healthcare coverage under its current conditions.
    • You can start receiving benefits six months after your start date. If you work less than 20 hours per week, you may need to work for slightly longer (175 days) to qualify.
    • For a step-by-step guide about how to apply for New York Paid Family leave, see here.
    • For A Better Balance’s comprehensive Know-Your-Rights guide to NY Paid Family Leave, see here.
  • If you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and a close family member is, or was, in the Armed Services, you may be entitled to additional protections under the FMLA.
    • The FMLA provides special protections for service-connected injuries or illnesses. If you are the spouse, parent, son, daughter, or next-of-kin of a veteran or a member of the Armed Services, including the National Guard and Reserves, you may be able to take military caregiver leave. You can take up to a total of 26 weeks of unpaid leave a year to take care of your military relative if he or she has a serious injury or illness stemming from his or her military service.
    • In addition to the ordinary protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act, if you have a parent, child, or spouse on or called to active duty service in a foreign country, you may be eligible for what is called “qualifying exigency” leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to address certain needs arising out of that active duty service. This leave allows you to take up to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year.
      • This leave is available to address many different types of needs, including:
        • tending to the needs of the children of a service member, such as arranging childcare, attending meetings, or enrolling the child in a new school
        • making legal or financial arrangements for a military member
        • spending time with a servicemember on a short-term rest and recuperation leave
        • arranging care for the parent of a servicemember when the parent is unable to care for himself or herself.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

  • Workers in New York are also protected from caregiver discrimination.
    • If you work in New York, your employer cannot discriminate against you based on “familial status,” i.e. because you have children under 18.
    • In New York City, the Human Rights Law specifically protects workers in workplaces with 4 or more employees from discrimination based on their status as a caregiver.
      • You are a caregiver if you provide care to a minor child (including biological, foster, or adopted children) or to a person with a disability that is your relative or resides in your home and relies on you for care. This can include your child, spouse, domestic partner, parent (including step-parents, foster, adopted, or biological parents), sibling, grandchild, grandparent, someone who lives in your home, or someone with whom you have a familial relationship.
    • For more information on the New York State and New York City laws, see here.
    • In addition, Ithaca, Rye Brook, Suffolk County, and Westchester County have laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on familial status or parental status. Cazenovia prohibits harassment of Village employees based on familial status. 
    • See here for a comprehensive list of localities that have outlawed caregiver discrimination. Note, however, that your city may have protections not listed in this chart. You may want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about rights in your city.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also bans unfair treatment of workers based on their relationship with a person with a disability. The ADA covers workers in workplaces with 15 or more employees. For example, your boss can’t cut your hours because they think you can’t work as hard because you have a child with asthma. Or your boss cannot assume that you will cost more on the company’s health insurance plan because your family member is seriously ill. However, neither law gives you the right, as the relative of a person with a disability, to accommodations such as a schedule change.

If you identify as a woman, you can also find more about your workplace rights in New York by visiting our New York Working Woman’s Pocket Guide.  

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance’s free work-family legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

Staying healthy at work while you are pregnant is sometimes challenging: you may be dealing with morning sickness, back pain, or doctor’s appointments every few weeks. For women who have suffered a miscarriage, you may need time off for recovery. U.S., New York, and local laws can help you stay healthy at work, give you time off when you need it, and protect you from pregnancy discrimination.

* Note: if have questions regarding your rights to leave and benefits for Covid-19 related needs while pregnant, see here for A Better Balance’s comprehensive FAQs for pregnant workers.

Pregnancy Discrimination

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for any employer in the U.S. with 15 or more workers to treat employees unfairly because they are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or have experienced a pregnancy loss. That means:
    • Your boss can’t fire you or cut your hours when they find out that you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant—you have the right to keep working as long as you can still do your job. You also have the right to be free from harassment at work because you are pregnant.
    • If your employer asks you about your pregnancy or plans to have children in a job interview, that may be evidence of pregnancy discrimination.
    • Your employer can’t treat you differently from other workers just because you are pregnant or have had a miscarriage. In 2015, the Supreme Court decided a case where it clarified what this means. The Court said that employers may not put a “significant burden” on pregnant employees. How do you know what’s a significant burden? Start looking around at how your employer treats other non-pregnant employees who have needed an accommodation at work. For example, does your employer have a policy of giving light duty only to those with on-the-job injuries? Or did they have no problem helping out folks with non-pregnancy related disabilities, but sent all the pregnant women out onto unpaid leave? If so, this could be evidence of pregnancy discrimination. It’s best to collect all the evidence you can (policies, employee handbooks or manuals, digging around to find out how others have been treated) and to discuss your particular situation with an attorney.
  • The New York State Human Rights Law also bans pregnancy discrimination, and covers all workplaces, regardless of size. In New York, the law clearly says your boss cannot force you to leave work during your pregnancy, unless your pregnancy actually prevents you from doing your job.

Workplace Accommodations

If you need changes at work to stay healthy on the job, the laws below can help. In addition, click the green button to learn how to talk with your boss about your pregnancy and request an accommodation if you need one.

  • Under New York State’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, if you need a “reasonable accommodation” because of a medical condition related to your pregnancy or childbirth (including, but not limited to, lactation), regardless of your employer’s size, they have to give it to you unless it would be really difficult or expensive (an “undue hardship”). This law also applies to you if you are an independent contractor. This means:
    • Your boss can’t just fire you if you ask for a chair to sit on or light duty while you are pregnant—they have to give you what you need to stay healthy at work, unless your employer can show that it would seriously harm the business.
    • Examples of accommodations listed in the law include providing new equipment or changes to equipment, changes to your job duties, and changes to your schedule.
    • Your employer can request a health care provider’s note in order to verify the existence of the pregnancy-related condition, or to have information that is necessary for an accommodation. However, you have a right to have this information kept private.
    • For more information, see here or here.
  • New York City also has a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that applies to employers with 4 or more employees. If you work in New York City, the law says that if you need a “reasonable accommodation” because of your pregnancy or childbirth, your employer has to give it to you unless it would be really difficult or expensive. Like the New York State law, this means your boss can’t just fire you if you ask for a bigger uniform, an extra bathroom break, or light duty while you are pregnant—they have to give you what you need to stay healthy at work, unless your employer can show that it would seriously harm the business.
    • Note that if you work in New York City, both the New York State and NYC Pregnant Workers Fairness Acts may apply to you.
    • For more information, see here or here.
  • As of January 1, 2021, if you are covered under New York State’s paid sick leave law you may be able to use your accrued time off for medical needs while pregnant, e.g., for a prenatal appointment. You may have additional rights under local laws. For more information on this law, see the “Caring for Your Own Medical Needs” tab.
  • If you are not covered by New York’s “reasonable accommodations” law (for example, if you work out of state), there is a federal law that may help you. The Americans with Disabilities Act, makes it illegal for employers in the U.S. with 15 or more employees to discriminate against workers with disabilities. Some pregnancy-related conditions, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, are considered disabilities under the law. This means:
    • Your boss cannot fire you, refuse to give you a promotion, or harass you because you have a pregnancy-related disability.
      • If you have a pregnancy-related disability, your boss cannot refuse to give you small changes at work that you need to stay healthy, like breaks to take medication, temporary relief from heavy lifting, or a stool to sit on during your shift. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations” and are available as long as you can still complete the basic duties of your job with those changes. Your boss does not have to give you an accommodation that would be very difficult or expensive, like building a whole new office.
      • Although pregnancy, by itself, is not considered a “disability,” some conditions of pregnancy may be disabilities so check with a lawyer to see whether you have a right to an accommodation at work.
  • The New York State Human Rights Law also bans disability discrimination at all workplaces, regardless of size.
  • If you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you have the right to take unpaid time off during pregnancy or after experiencing a miscarriage without losing your job. You may also have the right to paid cash benefits under New York’s Temporary Disability Insurance program if you are disabled for a period during your pregnancy.  See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” tab for more information and see this guide to your workplace rights around miscarriage.
  • The New York State Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (discussed above) may give you the right to unpaid, job-protected time off work as a “reasonable accommodation.”

If you identify as a woman, you can also find more about your workplace rights in New York by visiting our New York Working Woman’s Pocket Guide.  

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance’s free work-family legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world with no national law guaranteeing women the right to paid leave for childbirth. However, you may have the right to paid leave and/or unpaid leave during pregnancy, childbirth, and to bond with a new child under New York law. You may have additional rights under state and/or local laws. See the “Caring for Your Own Medical Needs” or “Caring for a Loved One” tabs for more information.

Paid Leave

  • If you work in New York, you may be eligible for New York Paid Family Leave (NYPFL). This program provides paid time off when you need to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children); care for a seriously ill family member (child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, or grandparent); or address certain military family needs.
    • If you’re employed outside the government in New York State, either full-time or part-time, you’re probably covered under the law, regardless of how many people work for your employer. The law applies regardless of immigration or citizenship status.
    • You have the right to take bonding leave at any point within the first 12 months following a child’s birth or placement for adoption or foster care. If a child has two parents, each parent (of any gender) has the right to take the maximum allotment of paid family leave for bonding.
    • You can take paid family leave to care for your child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse (including a same-sex spouse), domestic partner, grandchild, or grandparent when that person has a serious health need. These needs can include a serious physical or mental illness, injury, or condition.
    • In 2020, you can take up to ten weeks of family leave. In 2021, you will be able to take up to 12 weeks of leave.
    • In 2020, you can receive 60% of your average weekly pay, up to a cap. In 2021, you can receive 67% of your average weekly pay, up to a cap.
    • You can start receiving benefits six months after your start date. If you work less than 20 hours per week, you may need to work for slightly longer (175 days) to qualify
    • Your job must be protected while you are on leave. You have the right to return to work. If you receive healthcare coverage through your employer, you also have the right to keep your healthcare coverage under its current conditions.
    • If you gave birth, you may be able to receive Temporary Disability Insurance benefits (discussed below) to recover from childbirth and then take NYPFL to bond with your child, though you cannot receive both benefits at the same time. 
    • For a step-by-step guide about how to apply for New York Paid Family leave, see here
    • For A Better Balance’s comprehensive Know-Your-Rights guide to NY Paid Family Leave, see here
  • Birth parents who work in New York can get some paid cash benefits while they are unable to work because of pregnancy and childbirth under New York’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program.
    • You can receive TDI for up to 26 weeks in a year or for any particular “period of disability.” Insurers generally consider someone disabled for six weeks after a vaginal delivery and eight weeks after a Caesarian section. During pregnancy, you may also be considered disabled for a few weeks before your due date if your doctor deems it necessary that you not go to work.
    • There is a one-week unpaid waiting period for all TDI benefits, so, for instance, this benefit may amount to 5 to 7 weeks of coverage, rather than 6 to 8 weeks.
    • These payments are small—only 50% of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $170.00 per week.
    • This program does not protect you from being fired while out on leave. That means that if you are not eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the New York State or NYC Pregnant Workers Fairness laws (discussed in the “Unpaid, Job Protected Leave” section below and “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab, respectively), you can potentially lose your job while taking time off and receiving TDI payments.
    • TDI only covers your period of disability, not bonding, so it’s important to start collecting it right after you give birth or you could lose out. If you are planning to use any sick days, vacation days, or other time off after you give birth you should take them after your TDI payments run out. Alternatively, you may be able to collect TDI and paid time off at the same time—check with your employer or union about this.
    • For more information, see here.

Unpaid, Job-Protected Leave

The law may protect your job while you are taking leave due to pregnancy, childbirth, or to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children).

  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. You must: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and 2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and 3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for your own health (including pregnancy), to care for a new child after birth, adoption, or foster placement, or to care for a seriously ill family member. Remember that you only get 12 weeks a year in total—if you take time off before you give birth for your own health needs, you’ll have less time afterward to spend with your baby.
    • Before giving birth, you may use your leave an hour or day at a time—such as by taking a day off per week to go to the doctor—rather than all at once. Your employer must approve, however, if you want to use leave time in smaller chunks to bond with your baby.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you are in the top 10% of highest-paid workers in your company, different rules apply.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time.
    • Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
  • New York employers can’t discriminate against Adoptive Parents (look for “LAB,” “Article 7,” and then “201-C”) in their parental leave policies.  If your employer allows workers to take leave after the birth of a child, they must allow you to take the same amount of leave on the same terms after you adopt your child.
  • The New York State Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (discussed above) may give you the right to unpaid, job-protected time off work as a reasonable accommodation to physically recover from childbirth. See the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab for more information.
  • If your boss treats workers who take time off for childbirth differently from workers who take time off for other medical treatments (for example, they give most workers 2 weeks off for surgery but only 1 week for childbirth), this could be illegal under the national Pregnancy Discrimination Act and/or the New York State Human Rights Law. Call A Better Balance if you think you are being treated unfairly.

If you identify as a woman, you can also find more about your workplace rights in New York by visiting our New York Working Woman’s Pocket Guide.  

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance’s free work-family legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When you return to work as a new parent, you may still need a few extra breaks to pump breastmilk or time off to care for your baby when they’re sick. There are a few laws that can help you get back to work safely and still care for your family.

Returning from Childbirth 

Nursing Rights

  • You have the right to express or pump milk at work. If you work in New York, your employer must give you reasonable break time to express breast milk for up to three years after your baby’s birth. They also must try to provide a private location, other than a bathroom, for you to pump, and cannot discriminate against you for expressing milk at work.
  • New York State’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and/or the New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act may also help if you need a reasonable accommodation to express breast milk at work. See the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab for more information.
  • Rights for breastfeeding workers are strong in New York, but national laws may also protect you (for example, if you work outside New York):
    • The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) gives some U.S. workers the right to take unpaid breaks at work to pump milk, and requires some employers to find a clean, private place that’s not a bathroom for employees to pump milk. This law only applies to workers and employers who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—the law that sets minimum wage and overtime requirements.
  • It may be illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and/or New York State Human Rights Law for your boss to punish or discriminate against you because you are lactating.
  • Under New York law, you have the right to breastfeed your child in any public or private location.
  • For more information about your nursing rights, see here.

Caring for Your Family: Family Illness and Caregiver Discrimination

As a new parent, you may face discrimination at work or have problems taking time off when you or your baby is sick. These laws can help you balance your job and caring for your family.

** If you work in New York and have questions regarding your rights to leave and benefits for Covid-19 related needs in New York, see here for A Better Balance’s comprehensive FAQs.

  • As of January 1, 2021, if you are covered, New York’s paid sick leave law gives you the right to take time off from work without losing your job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • If your employer has 100 or more employees, you can earn and take up to 56 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has between 5 and 99 employees, you can earn and take up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 4 or fewer workers and a net income of more than 1 million dollars in the previous tax year, you can earn and take up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 4 or fewer workers and a net income of 1 million dollars or less in the previous tax year, you can earn and take up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per year.
    • Under this law, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, spouse or domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
    • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • The state law set a minimum standard for paid sick leave. If you work in New York City you may have additional paid sick and safe time rights.
  • If you work in New York City, the New York City Earned Safe & Sick Time Act gives you the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • Until January 1, 2021, you have the right to take up to 40 hours of sick time a year that you can use for your own or a family member’s health needs (like an illness or a check-up).
      • If your employer has 5 or more employees in NYC, that time must be paid.
      • If your employer has fewer than 5 employees in NYC, your sick time may be unpaid, but you can’t be fired or punished for taking it.
      • If you are a domestic worker and do not work for an agency, your time must be paid, regardless of how many employees your employer has.
    • Beginning on January 1, 2021, the amount of time you will be able to use will depend on the size of your employer.
      • If your employer has 99 or fewer workers, you can use up to 40 hours per year.
      • If your employer has 100 or more workers, you can use up to 56 hours per year.
      • If your employer has fewer than 5 workers and a net income of less than $1 million in the last tax year, your sick time may be unpaid—but you can’t be fired or punished for taking it.
      • If you are a domestic worker and do not work for an agency, your time must be paid, regardless of how many employees your employer has.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or for any other blood relative (such as an aunt, cousin, etc.) or any other individual whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship (such as a close friend who is like family, a significant other, etc.).
    • You also have the right to use “safe time” to address certain non-medical needs that may arise if the worker or a family member are victims of domestic violence, a sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking.
    • Sick time can also be used when your place of business is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency
    • You only need to provide a note from a health care provider if you need sick time for more than 3 consecutive days of absence (and the note does not have to specify your illness). However, if your employer requests a note from a health care provider, they must reimburse you for any fee your health care provider charges you to provide documentation.
    • To learn more about the law, see here or here.
    • Additionally, the agency that enforces the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act released guidance providing additional examples of ways that sick time can be used for coronavirus-related reasons, including taking time off work because the worker is under quarantine, is self-isolating for preventative purposes, or is caring for a family member under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine.
  • If you work in New York City, you may also have the right to a temporary schedule change to address certain personal events including the need to care for a minor child or a care recipient.
  • If you are an employee in New York and you need time off from work for certain reasons related to COVID-19, New York’s emergency quarantine-related paid sick leave law may give you the right to take paid time off from work without losing your job.
    • This law applies only to certain sick leave needs related to quarantine for the coronavirus. Employees can take time off when they are subject to a specific, personal government-issued mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation.
    • The law applies to public agencies and private entities regardless of size, but provides different rights depending on the size and other characteristics of the employer.
    • Emergency sick leave is separate from and does not count against employee’s accrued sick leave or other accrued paid leave (like PTO).
    • All covered employees are protected against retaliation for using their rights under the law and are entitled to return to their jobs following leave.
    • For more detailed information about New York’s emergency quarantine-related paid sick leave law, see here.
    • For information about COVID-19 benefits & paid leave for New York workers, see here.
  • If you work in New York and need time off because your child or other family member has a more serious health issue, you may be eligible for New York Paid Family Leave (NYPFL). This program provides paid time off when you need to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children); care for a seriously ill family member (child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, or grandparent); or address certain military family needs.
    • If you’re employed outside the government in New York State, either full-time or part-time, you’re probably covered under the law, regardless of how many people work for your employer. The law applies regardless of immigration or citizenship status.
    • You have the right to take bonding leave at any point within the first 12 months following a child’s birth or placement for adoption or foster care. If a child has two parents, each parent (of any gender) has the right to take the maximum allotment of paid family leave for bonding.
    • You can take paid family leave to care for your child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse (including a same-sex spouse), domestic partner, grandchild, or grandparent when that person has a serious health need. These needs can include a serious physical or mental illness, injury, or condition.
    • In 2020, you can take up to ten weeks of family leave. In 2021, you will be able to take up to 12 weeks of leave.
    • In 2020, you can receive 60% of your average weekly pay, up to a cap. In 2021, you can receive 67% of your average weekly pay, up to a cap.
    • You can start receiving benefits six months after your start date. If you work less than 20 hours per week, you may need to work for slightly longer (175 days) to qualify.
    • Your job must be protected while you are on leave. You have the right to return to work. If you receive healthcare coverage through your employer, you also have the right to keep your healthcare coverage under its current conditions.
    • If you gave birth, you may be able to receive Temporary Disability Insurance benefits (discussed below) to recover from childbirth and then take NYPFL to bond with your child, though you cannot receive both benefits at the same time. 
    • For a step-by-step guide about how to apply for New York Paid Family leave, see here.
    • For A Better Balance’s comprehensive Know-Your-Rights guide to NY Paid Family Leave, see here.
  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it). See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” tab for more information on these laws.
  • Workers in New York are also protected from caregiver discrimination.
    • If you work in New York, your employer cannot discriminate against you based on “familial status,” i.e. because you have children under 18.
    • In New York City, the Human Rights Law specifically protects workers from discrimination based on their status as a caregiver.
      • You are a caregiver if you provide care to a minor child (including biological, foster, or adopted children) or to a person with a disability that is your relative or resides in your home and relies on you for care. This can include your child, spouse, domestic partner, parent (including step-parents, foster, adopted, or biological parents), sibling, grandchild, grandparent, someone who lives in your home, or someone with whom you have a familial relationship.
    • For more information on the New York State and New York City caregiver laws, see here.
    • In addition, Ithaca, Rye Brook, Suffolk County, and Westchester County have laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on familial status or parental status. Cazenovia prohibits harassment of Village employees based on familial status. 
    • See here for a comprehensive list of localities that have outlawed caregiver discrimination. Note, however, that your city may have protections not listed in this chart. You may want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about rights in your city.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also bans unfair treatment of workers based on their relationship with a person with a disability. The ADA covers workers in workplaces with 15 or more employees. For example, your boss can’t cut your hours because they think you can’t work as hard because you have a child with asthma. Or your boss cannot assume that you will cost more on the company’s health insurance plan because your family member is seriously ill. However, neither law gives you the right, as the relative of a person with a disability, to accommodations such as a schedule change.
  • If you lose your job because you have family caregiving responsibilities, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

If you identify as a woman, you can also find more about your workplace rights in New York by visiting our New York Working Woman’s Pocket Guide.  

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance’s free work-family legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

© A Better Balance

Please note that this state-by-state guide is not intended to provide an exhaustive overview of any one law described. It is possible that other provisions may apply to your specific circumstances or category of employment.

Note also that the information contained in this guide does not constitute legal advice. It is always advisable to consult with an attorney about your individual circumstances if you have questions or think your rights as a worker have been violated.

If you have additional questions about your rights, you can contact our free, confidential legal helpline.

Find Your State

Scroll to Top