By Bill Parry
Dozens of pregnant women and expecting parents gathered at a free seminar in Astoria last week to get comprehensive information on workplace rights guaranteed by New York State’s landmark paid family leave law which goes into effect Jan. 1.
The program, hosted by state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), armed the people who attended with the information they need to exercise their rights to paid family leave and health insurance coverage for prenatal care.
“I am committed to helping pregnant women and new parents navigate laws and understand their rights to protect their jobs and the health of their new babies,” Simotas said. “We need healthy families to be a healthy community.”
Paid Family Leave will provide employees with wage replacement and job protection to help them bond with a child, care for a close relative with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is deployed abroad on active military service. Employees are also entitled to be reinstated to their job when their leave ends, and to the continuation of their health insurance during their leave.
Alex Berke and Rosa Alberti, of the female-owned law firm Berke-Weiss and co-creators of the Pregnancy Project, were the presenters at the seminar, held last Friday at the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens. The team provided vital information on how to tell your boss you’re pregnant, how to ask for accommodations at work, how to use benefits under the state’s new Paid Family Leave law, and health insurance issues.
The firm launched the Pregnancy Project as a way to improve the lives of working mothers-to-be and working parents.
“Too many pregnant women do not understand their rights to take leave and use their health insurance,” Berke said. “Our Pregnancy Project seminar helps pregnant women and their families understand their rights and empowers them to have the necessary conversations with their employers and health insurers.”
The city Human Rights Commission’s Queens Community Service Center Director Rasel Rahman explained the protections for families under the NYC Human Rights Law, which makes it illegal to discriminate in the workplace because of a women’s pregnancy, in housing or in any place of public accommodation.
In 2015, the state enacted legislation sponsored by Simotas that made pregnancy a qualifying event for getting health insurance outside the designated enrollment periods. This change to the law now enables women to gain access to prenatal care they might not otherwise have.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr